RICHARDSON EAGER TO TAKE ON NCAA REGIONAL FIELD AFTER ANOTHER OVC MEDALIST WIN
May 10, 2017
MARTIN, Tenn. – Jerry Carpenter distinctly remembers the first time he encountered him. The University of Tennessee at Martin head golf coach had settled in at the 2010 Craig Rudolph Memorial in Clarksville with the intent of scouting some future Skyhawks to join his program.
Carpenter’s attention quickly zoned in on one of the local kids – a 14 year-old named Hunter Richardson who was about to enter his freshman year at Clarksville High School.
“I usually go up to that tournament every year but in that one particular instance, I saw this little guy running around,” said Carpenter, who is now in his 15th season at the helm of the UT Martin golf program. “He was just a little dude at the time but he had a short game that was phenomenal. I thought that if he keeps improving and grows a little bit, he has a chance.”
Richardson went on to win his age division in that tournament. It was just one of many wins in Richardson’s future – eight of which have occurred at the collegiate level in his first three seasons at UT Martin.
It’s a path that Carpenter admits he wasn’t so sure would happen after his visit to see Richardson in the summer of 2010.
“I stayed after him but I really thought he was going to a bigger school,” Carpenter said. “Some of the bigger schools talked to him and wanted him to walk on. I met with him and told him he had a scholarship at UT Martin and we’d be happy to have him. He decided he was going to come and it all worked out. He was a steal – and I knew that at the time.”
“I wanted to stay close to home but I kind of wanted to get away and enjoy the college experience,” Richardson said. “I’m really happy with where I’m at. I love the Rhodes Golf Center facility and my teammates and coaches have been great. I’ve had a lot of good times here.”
Richardson burst onto the collegiate golf scene in 2014-15, becoming just the eighth golfer in Ohio Valley Conference history to sweep all three conference postseason accolades (All-OVC, OVC Freshman of the Year, OVC All-Newcomer). He followed that with another all-conference nod en route to a medalist victory and helping the Skyhawks to their first-ever OVC team championship in 2015-16.
Richardson took a valuable lesson from UT Martin’s NCAA Regional berth in Franklin, Tenn., where he placed in the top-third in the field of some of the nation’s best collegiate golfers.
“Patience was the main thing,” Richardson said. “It was pretty tough out there – you just have to learn not to be overwhelmed by that and pace yourself.”
This year, Richardson became the first golfer in Skyhawk history to be named OVC Player of the Year while tying a school record with his third mention on the All-OVC team. He won five tournaments, including his second consecutive OVC championship to become only the seventh golfer in league history to repeat as a medalist.
“I learned a lot about myself this past year,” Richardson said. “I learned not to get ahead of yourself. It’s really easy to be leading and start thinking about celebrating and everything else. You can’t do that – you just have to take it shot-by-shot and hole-by-hole.”
That demeanor could prove to play big dividends for Richardson next week when he makes his second career NCAA Regional appearance. He was assigned to the College Grove Regional and will tee it up at The Grove, a golf course which he is familiar with.
“I played a lot of junior golf there – that’s a pretty popular spot for those tournaments,” Richardson said. “I actually played there two years ago for the state match play and I shot 11-under in two rounds. I’ve had good success there in the past so I’m excited to see what I can do.”
“We had talked about how neat it would be to get to play near home,” Carpenter said. “The fact that Hunter has played that course and had success there, he could possibly have a chance to be in the top part of the tournament. Any time that you know the golf course and you know where to hit your shots, that’s a big advantage.”
Richardson’s upcoming participation in the NCAA Regional continues the legacy that he has helped establish at UT Martin. The Skyhawks have now been represented in the postseason in three consecutive years under Carpenter and are just the third school in OVC history to produce three consecutive medalists (joining Eastern Kentucky from 1982-86 and Middle Tennessee from 1998-2000).
“It’s a good thing that we have going here,” Carpenter said. “We have elevated our program to the stature that we have been working for. The bar has been raised and set for UT Martin golf. We are only going to go forward, we’re not going back.”