AJ Orchard is determined to make his senior season his best yet.
The Dixie High letterman has steadily been improving his game over the last few years. Now with senior year just a few weeks away, Orchard is honing his skills this summer to ensure he’ll be ready to roll once the prep season starts.
The Flyers course leader is tearing up the links in the Junior Association of Golfers (JAG) program. He’s the front-runner to win the Player of the Year award (boys 15-17), entering Thursday with 510 points.
“I have been having a great summer playing golf, hitting greens and fairways and just getting myself around the course,” Orchard said.
Added Director of Golf Operations Colby Cowan: “A.J. comes from a golfing family and is carrying on the legacy. He is a senior at Dixie and is one of the top high school golfers this upcoming year.”
Orchard’s father, Allen, is the pro at Dixie Red Hills and his grandfather was the head professional there as well.
For AJ, he’s embraced the golf tradition his elders have bestowed upon him.
“My dad and grandpa have had great success in the game, and as a kid I have developed a love for the game and want to be the best I can,” AJ Orchard said. “With my father and grandfather’s guidance, I have started focusing on golf a lot more. Now going into my senior year, I have put a lot more of my time towards practicing.”
AJ’s strong showing this summer indicates he is ready to take the next step at the prep level.
“AJ has been a very consistent player for us all three years he has been at Dixie. In 2011, our team didn’t qualify for the state tournament, but AJ did as an individual,” said Flyers coach Eron Deming. “Last year he made the cut at the state tournament when the rest of the team didn’t.
“AJ’s goals for the season should be to compete for the region title as a team and as an individual. I think both of those are very realistic for him. He should also be able to have a great showing at the state level.”
AJ finished 13th in state last year and sixth in Region 9. All solid finishes indeed, but he’s hoping to reach the next level this fall.
To do so, he’ll need to strengthen his game, which the senior believes he’s doing in JAG.
“I’ve never been a long ball hitter, but this summer I have gained some distance which has really helped,” AJ Orchard said. “I have learned short game is key in golf. So when I play good, it’s because of my short game.”
Orchard has plenty of experienced coaches to help guide him through the trenches as well.
“AJ is a good enough player he knows what he needs to work on. His dad helps him a lot with knowing what to work on,” Deming said. “I am willing to help him in whatever ways he needs during his round and during the week to improve. If he asks for advice, I give it. If he wants me to stay out of his way, I’ll do that too.
“It depends on the player on how much they want the coach to help them. The good thing about golf is your score will always let you know where you are compared to the other players and what you need to work on.”
Orchard is a veteran of this game at this point. For a player that’s been through all kinds of experiences through Region 9 golf, he knows what it’ll take to be successful in his final run through the competition.
“The key is mainly my short game. I have been striking the ball really well with few bad shots creeping in, but a strong short game can take anyone’s game to the next level.”
Contact John on Twitter @SpectrumRenshaw.