Valdosta Daily Times

April 12, 2013

Valwood’s Patel to play golf at Berry

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Since picking up a golf club as a child, Ajay Patel knew golf was going to be his thing. After a successful three-plus years at Valwood, Patel was given the opportunity to continue playing competitive golf when he was offered a spot on Berry College’s team next year.

On Wednesday, Patel signed with the Division III school, surrounded by his family and Valwood teammates.

“I used to be deciding between the professional golf program or college golf,” Patel said. “I said, ‘College golf is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You can’t miss that.’”

Located in Mount Berry, a small mountain town located northwest of Rome, Ga., Berry College offered everything Patel wanted in a college: a competitive golf team with an opportunity to grow, a beautiful campus that offered a piece of home, smaller class sizes built to help students succeed, and, yes, the opportunity to possibly meet a future Mrs. Patel.

“Overall, I was in love with the campus when I went up there; it was by far one of the prettiest campus I have ever seen,” Patel said.

“I like the smaller classes and I felt the size was right. Also, 70 percent woman; you can’t argue with that.”

On the golf course, Patel has been the anchor for the Valwood team over the last few years, and he continues to be again this season. Shooting an average round of 78, Patel is ranked 75th in the state of Georgia according to the Junior Golf Scoreboard Rankings and he is the reigning Region 3-AA champion, after winning the championship last April.

He followed that performance up by finishing 12th in the state tournament last May.

One of Patel’s strengths on the golf course is his ball striking, saying he likes his ability to drive the ball far off the tee. His weakest part of his game? Putting, of course.

“I think it is just lack of confidence,” Patel said, of his putting. “I’m sure when I get to college, it will be back. Just have to build it back up again.”

Along with playing at Valwood, Patel has worked with several instructors from the area, including the golf professionals at both Stone Creek and Kinderlou Forest.

“I want to thank a lot of people: My past instructor Bob Burke for helping me and supporting me along the way; Bill Robinson, the head teaching pro at Kinderlou; and also Rob Williams for being supportive of me,” Patel said.

Outside of Valwood, Patel also finished first in the Junior Tour Summer Series at the Atlanta Athletic Club, shooting a one-round score of 75. He also won the GAPGAJT at Kinderlou Forest, shooting a 72 and 71.

At Berry College, Patel will join a rather large recruiting class next year, giving him an opportunity to compete against other players his age for the opportunity to play and count towards the team’s score in the tournaments.

“We have a rather large recruiting class for next year,” Patel said. “I want to say there are like six of us....I am really interested to see how it all works out.”

An academic Merit Role recipient three of the last four years at Valwood, and nominated for Valwood’s Byron Scholarship, Patel said he plans on majoring in business management at Berry. He will begin classes in August.