Jonathan Griz never really changes his routine when it comes to preparing for a tournament start. And facing Pinehurst, especially, why would he? Griz calls the strength of his game his wedge play, particularly from about 130 yards and in.
“The biggest thing about playing Pinehurst No. 2 is just positioning yourself in the right areas with your approach shots because you can hit a ton of great approach shots that feed off greens or you hit a great shot and it rolls off the green,” Griz said.
The 16-year-old’s week at the North & South Junior revolved around birdie looks. Put yourself in the right positions, and the opportunities are there. Griz did it.
“I didn’t make all of them, but I made enough to win,” said Griz, who lives in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Griz had rounds of bookended rounds of 70 and 71 at Pinehurst No. 8 with a second-round 66 on No. 2. That day included six birdies. He won the tournament at 7 under, which was four better than runner-up Clayson Good.
Scores: North & South Junior
When Griz got his hands on the Putter Boy trophy, the iconic piece of hardware Pinehurst hands out to its North & South winners at all the various age divisions, it busted a winless streak dating to August 2019, when Griz won the Nike Junior Invitational.
“I’ve been working hard to win again,” he said. “I haven’t won since August of 2019, so I’m had a little bit of a drought, you’d say. It feels so good to get back into the winner’s circle.”
With the title, Griz rises to No. 63 in the latest Golfweek Junior Rankings, and he hopes he’ll keep on climbing. The home-schooled high school junior has committed to play for Alabama beginning in the fall of 2022. By the time he gets there, he hopes to be the No. 1 junior in the country.
Griz will spend part of the next two years attending classes at Technical College of the Lowcountry, where he’ll knock out some dual credits. He’s almost certain he’ll major in accounting in college with a golf back-up plan of being a CPA, like his dad.
Before the summer is over, Griz will make a handful of American Junior Golf Association starts – he’s at the AJGA Junior at Oldfield in Okatie, South Carolina, this week – and continue doing laps around his home course, Colleton River Club in nearby Beaufort, South Carolina. He also plans to play the Carolinas Junior Boys Championship at the end of July and the South Carolina Amateur in August.
Griz does more than show up at local events. Earlier in the spring, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, he and another local junior Savannah Hylton started calling hospitals and redirecting money for canceled spring golf tournaments to the medical force. The money instead went toward snacks and supplies organized into goodie bags with hand-written thank-you notes. It was part of an AJGA charity initiative called Leadership Links.
Griz gives credit to Hylton for the idea, but he took to heart the message that prompted the idea.
“She was talking about what kind of legacy she wanted to leave behind from (the pandemic),” he said. “She was the one who came up with doing that and talked me into doing it.”
Griz has a history of raising money for charity through golf. Most recently he did it to play in two charity tournaments hosted by golf buddies. Jackson Van Paris hosted the Carolinas Cup – which was the last time he played Pinehurst No. 2 – and future Alabama teammate Canon Claycomb hosted the Mason Cup. Griz believes it’s his responsibility to devote his time to things like that.
“Golf has given me so much and I just want to be able to give back because that’s what’s really most important to me,” he said.
When Griz and Hylton showed up to area hospitals to deliver their cards and goodie bags, healthcare workers were thrilled.
“They’d never really had two kids do that for them,” he said. “A few of the people said it made some of the doctors cry.”