Golfer Larry Rentz, the national junior long-driving champion, is going to de-emphasize the long ball this year because he says it hurts his overall game.
The 17-year-old member of Crofton Country Club was relatively unknown, even in this area, until he won the national title last August at Bethesda Country Club with a poke of 293 yards, 27 inches.
"I think trying to compete as a long driver was the biggest detriment to my game," he said. "I have discovered that there is a lot more to golf than being a long knocker. I was always concentrating on putting the ball out of sight and it messed me up quite a bit."
Rentz is a personable, articulate youngster who is a senior at Fairmont Heights High School. Despite his modesty about his overall golf game, he made great hstrides last summer. He was a semifinalist in the Metropolitan Schoolboy Championship; a semifinalist in the Worsham Memorial, which attracts some of the best young players in the country under 21, and a semifinalist in the Maryland state junior tourney.
"I won't be 18 until Aug. 23," Rentz said, "and I plan to play in every junior tournaments as well as the Worsham. I would like to play, later on, with Crofton's team in the Maryland interclub matches."
Rentz said his golf career has been ruled by finding agreeable things he didn't seek.
"Like the first time I played with my dad's foursome," he explained. "I was 13 and had played some but not too much. One of my father's foursome didn't show ip - this was at Northampton. I started to play regularly with them and then we all moved over to Crofton.
"Last year one of the foursome suggested I enter a driving contest at Belair, I did and finished second with 275 yards, a couple of yards shorter than Tom Moore, a boy from Hagerstown.
"I went up to the regionals (Islip, N.Y.) and finished second in the junior division with a drive of a little more than 312 yards. But another guy, Ed Bernasky, of Peabody, Mass., outhit me by a couple of yards."
Winning the national junior finals at Bethesda put him in the overall national championships the following week at Congressional, the afternoon before the start of the PGA Championship.
"I was really nervous," Rentz recalled. "Here were all the big knockers on the pro tour including Jim Dent as well as Geoffrey Long, the amateur from Kentucky who had been the national champion. We all hit off the first tee at Congressional and the idea that you had to keep the ball in the fairway to get your yardage. I had a couple of good shots but they were in the rough so I didn't get a score. Evan Williams won it with a drive of 307 feet, 23 inches.
"I did get a lot of trophies out of all than and enough golf to last me a year.
Like most golfers this winter, Rentz had been chafing at the bit. "I'll be graduating in June and I have some feelers from the University of Florida, Tampa, Jacksonville and Maryland. But they don't give you scholarships on past performances. I'd have to qualify."
Rentz played soccer, basketball and baseball in junior high before he went to Fairmont. He's a six-footer who weighs a trim 175 pounds. He has big hands and powerful wrists.
"I gave up all sports and decided to concentrate on golf when I went to Fairmont," he said. "Before I went to Fairmont, the golf team had a record of 0-22. I wish I could say that I helped change things around but in my first year we were 4-8 and last year we were 4-7."
Like most youngsters, Rentz prefers match play. "But I know that as I get older I'm going to have to concentrate on medal play and erase some of those bug numbers. I learned a lot watching the PGA at Congressional last summer - watching how those pros moved the ball off the tee and how they positioned themselves. They are golfers not shooters. I have to learn finesse.