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Ex-ETSU golfer Enoch looks back at Pebble Beach, forward in career

Joe Avento • Jun 14, 2020 at 8:45 PM

In a normal year, golfer Rhys Enoch might be getting ready to play in his second U.S. Open.

But as everybody knows, this year has been anything but normal.

When the USGA moved the U.S. Open to September because of the coronavirus pandemic, it also canceled all the qualifiers, choosing to set this year’s field by exemptions and invitations. For the first time, it’s not really an “Open.”

Enoch, the former East Tennessee State All-America golfer, made quite a splash in last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he shot a second- round 66 to make the cut on the number. Only three players have ever gone lower in a U.S. Open at Pebble.

After falling to a 71st-place finish last year, he still would have had to qualify for this year’s championship, but now he’s simply out of luck.

The 31-year-old is making his living playing golf in Europe and South Africa. He’s married now with a young son and still has big plans on the course.

Enoch has been known to local golf fans as a long hitter from the minute he stepped onto ETSU’s campus.

These days, he’s listed as the longest hitter on the European Tour with an average drive of 337.7 yards. In fact, that’s the longest average of any player on any of the major pro tours.

When you think back to Pebble Beach, what do you remember most?

“The condition of the course and just the special nature of the environment it lies in. Monterey Peninsula is a really special place for any golfer.”

How cool was it to have posted one of the best rounds ever on one of the world’s famed championship courses?

“At the time it was just another round that went in the right direction. The quality of the layout at Pebble Beach is very fair and rewards good play. I found myself 4 under at the turn without doing anything I would deem as ‘special.’ I just hit some quality shots and made a couple nice putts.

“Looking back now and when I finished the round and realized what I’d done, it is a very special feeling.”

The way the U.S. Open is being held this year, there won’t be any qualifying. Were you looking forward to trying to make the field again?

“I was very excited to try and qualify again, yes. I just hope there’s a miracle that the USGA allow anyone who made the cut to play in this year’s event! Wishful thinking.”

And no Open Championship, so that’s two majors you get robbed of a chance to play. How much fun is it playing in a major compared to a regular event?

“A major is not even comparable to a regular event. It’s something entirely different for a couple reasons. There’s no expense spared, the course is almost always perfect, and the atmosphere … because everyone knows what’s at stake. The crowds make it so special to play.”

I saw a graphic that pointed out you’re still one of the biggest — if not the biggest — hitters in all of golf. What’s your secret to power off the tee?

“I would love to give a magic answer. However, I was born with a few traits that aid me in hitting it far. Fast twitch muscle fibers being one, which allow me to move quickly, jump high, run fast, etc. Then I create a lot of torque in my back swing and then create a lot of lag on the downswing. These things together allow me to generate a lot of force for my size.”

What’s the longest drive you’ve ever hit?

“That’s a tough question. I’ve driven multiple par 4s at 450 yards with a stiff wind behind me. And for the locals, I have driven the 18th at Blackthorn Club with no wind. And yes, I made the eagle.”

What’s your status right now on tour?

“I have full status on the Sunshine Tour and the European Challenge Tour and I have Category 18 on the European Tour, which means I should play a few events when the schedule restarts in July.”

Golf is a never-ending process. What do you work on trying to get better?

“The older I get the more refined things become and the smarter my practice is. Personally, I’ve suffered with a couple technical issues that were ingrained as a kid, and I’m sure you remember I suffered some serious shoulder problems at ETSU due to these issues. I’m really starting to get to grips with my swing development.

“From a mental standpoint, maturity and learning from experiences is a massive part of development as a person and a player, which is fun to notice.”

What are your goals for the next couple of years?

“First I want to secure full playing rights on the European Tour and then I want to win. I’ve won on the Sunshine Tour and Challenge Tour, so it’s the next step for me.”

Where do you call home these days?

“Home is a tough question. I have called my physical address Cardiff (Wales) for the past six years. However, now having a South African wife, we have been in South Africa since December with a plan to move back to the U.K. in the near future.”

Does it get tougher to travel now that you’ve started a family?

“Much tougher! My little boy is amazing and I’m very blessed to have such a wonderful little man and wife now. Leaving is harder. However, I may sleep more on the road.”

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