Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 29
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
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JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: Princeton Day School junior golf star John Inman displays his smooth follow through. Next week, Inman will head to the Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo. to test his skills against 150 of the best young players in the country as he plays in the U.S. Junior Amateur.

PDS Golf Star Inman Aims to Be a Tiger as He Competes in U.S. Junior Amateur

Lance Willams

Tiger Woods' love affair with golf began before he even had the ability to walk or talk, watching his father hit golf balls and mimicking his swing while still in a crib.

Princeton Day School junior golf star John Inman's involvement with the game started in much the same way, first picking up a club as an anxious 4-year-old, imitating his dad by swatting away at balls in his backyard.

Since that time, Inman has established himself as one of the premier junior golfers in New Jersey.

This past spring, he led PDS to the Patriot Conference title this past year by firing the lowest score (75) in the conference tournament.

In mid-June, he hit a new level by qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur by shooting a combined score of 148 at a qualifying event at the Arcola Country Club in Paramus, N.J.

Next week, Inman will head to the Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo. to see how his skills stack up against 150 of the best young players in the country as he plays in the junior amateur.

The format of the event, like other U.S. amateurs, is 36 holes of stroke play to narrow down the field to 64, and then match play the rest of the way.

As he looks ahead to prestigious competition, Inman credits much of his recent success — once again, much like Tiger — to the guidance and tutelage of his father Mark, who was one of the founding members of Cherry Valley Country Club in Skillman, NJ and an accomplished scratch golfer in his own right.

After introducing John to the game as a 4-year-old, Mark Inman quickly assumed the role of coach and worked with his son on his swing and mental approach.

At the ripe age of eight, while most kids were busy playing video games and hide-and-go-seek, Inman was hard at work on the golf course and at the range fine-tuning his skills.

"My dad introduced me to the game and was the only person who really made me want to be a golfer," Inman said.

"But it wasn't like he was forcing me to practice; I picked up the game on my own, I guess he just put me on the right path."

After years of solid play on the local junior golf circuit, that path led the young golfer to famed swing instructor Dom DiJulia of the Dom DiJulia School of Golf at Jericho National Golf Club in New Hope, Pa.

"He's just the best around," raved Inman. "And he's really helped with my swing the past few years to get to the next level." Under DiJulia's watchful eye, the 6'0" 165-pounder who claims he is "built like a stick" blossomed into a golfer who regularly launches the ball 280 yards plus down the middle of the fairway with his tee shots.

Combining his newly honed swing with an already advanced short game, the young athlete began his high school career at PDS brimming with confidence — and it showed.

Despite describing his freshman season as somewhat of a disappointment, Inman still managed to stake claim to the No. 1 spot on the team and establish himself as a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Although the team struggled to a 4-11 record, Inman still had a number of noteworthy accomplishments, including firing a 35 to help his team tie golf powerhouse Princeton High in the Princeton challenge.

"In the individual tournaments I didn't do as well as I had hoped; it seemed anytime I shot a good number, someone shot better," he said.

"But I look at the high school season as preparation for the summer tournaments anyways, that's what all of the colleges look for."

When spring turned into summer, Inman responded to the heightened pressure of college scouts by achieving great success in a number of tournaments, although one tournament in particular stands out in his mind. "It was in a better ball tournament at Mountain View, and my partner and I were two down with two to go playing two of the best amateurs in Philadelphia," recalled Inman.

"I chipped in from 50 yards out on both of the last holes, for a birdie and an eagle, to tie the match and force a playoff. Although we went on to lose in the playoff that was a pretty special moment."

The momentum from that summer carried over into his sophomore season at PDS as well. Although the PDS star started off the season slowly in individual tournaments, he consistently posted the best round in every team tournament and led PDS to a 7-6 record as well its first win over rival Hun in a dual match in many years. More importantly, however, he bested over 40 golfers from 12 schools in taking the Patriot title.

Inman points to the efforts and support of PDS coach Win Headley as one of the key factors in his Patriot win."He really helps my mental game and keeps me focused out there; without him I would be a head case on the course."

Instead of tweaking his star player's physical swing and technique, Headley — a former All-American high school football player — focuses his coaching on helping Inman to deal with the mental strain of playing competitive golf at a high level.

"Like any game, golf is highly emotional & and you can be your own worst enemy," Headley said.

"I just try to smooth out the peaks and valleys of his rounds. I ask him to analyze the situation before each shot, in the hopes of choosing the shot with the highest likelihood of success & mental discipline in short."

Using this mental discipline, Inman nearly won the individual title at the Mercer County Tournament. In the competition held at Mercer Oaks, Inman finished in a tie for fifth (+2), when a playoff for the championship was between a group at +1.

Despite all of these accomplishments, according to Inman, nothing compared to the feeling of qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur on June 18. The soon to be 16-year-old put an exclamation point on his young career by shooting a pair of 74s (148) at the Arcola Country Club in Paramus, N.J. to become one of four in his region of 100 players to qualify for the biggest event in junior golf.

"It was the biggest thing I've done by far," he said. "I'm really excited, it's a big accomplishment just to qualify for the event, and I'm practicing real hard everyday at Cherry Valley so I don't embarrass myself out there."

In preparation for the event, Inman is practicing at Cherry Valley for at least seven hours everyday, and even claims to sometimes spend over 12 hours on the course on some days."I usually go to the range for an hour and a half, work on my short game for two hours, and then play a full round," he said. "But sometimes my dad will come to the course after my round and I will stay and practice with him for a few hours."

As a result, Inman — who is also a star center on the PDS boys' hockey team — has been forced to abandon his summer hockey team (the Mercer Chiefs of the U-16 AAA division) for the time being. Although he has still yet to decide which sport he would like to play in college, he acknowledges that a strong performance in the upcoming junior amateur would make his decision a fairly easy one.

Headley, for his part, believes that Inman has the potential to do something special next week. "Sure I think he could win it," Headley said. "Anything can happen."

If that happened, Inman would be following in the footsteps of a kid named Woods, who won the junior amateur as a 15-year-old in 1991.

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