By Brandon Gould
Standing with club in hand during a round of golf with his head coach, Russell Hill knew that he had not been shooting his best game, but that wasn’t going to impair the sophomore as he laid his ball on the tee in preparation for the next hole.
The realization of that mentality came soon enough as Hill hit “two fantastic shots” before nailing a putt for eagle, according to Ursinus head coach Wes Hollis. Despite starting off on the wrong swing, Hill fed off of that eagle and ended the round plus-1. “His swing wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do, and he made some mistakes,” Hollis said. “On that next hole though, he had the swing he needed and an idea of what he wanted to do with the golf ball and he was completely focused on those shots.” That ability to focus on the task at hand is part of the reason Hill has been so successful since arriving on the Ursinus campus in 2011. And it’s that success which recently led the Centennial Conference to name the Bordentown Regional High graduate as its top golfer heading into the spring season. Hill, who averaged a 74 in his fall season as a sophomore and shot a low of 73, admitted that he doesn’t see himself at the top of the podium just yet, but he also said that he saw the ranking as gratification. “To be honest, I know a lot of the golfers in the conference, and I was surprised to see my name there because (those schools) have a lot of really good players on their teams,” Hill said. “I wouldn’t consider myself the best in the conference, or whatever, but seeing my name up there makes me think that all the hard work and practice is paying off.” Although Hill says he is “never quite as good as I want to be,” his head coach sees the ins-and-out that brought on the No. 1 ranking. Round after round, Hollis watches as Hill displays his work ethic, zoning in with hopes to improve every aspect of the game. “I think consistency in his short game has improved dramatically, and he’s been working on his mental game,” Hollis said. “He just keeps working on his swing and he is just getting better and better and that’s a testament to him. He works hard at it; he’s a hound dog out there. “We can’t all be 100 percent focused on what we’re doing all the time, but Russell does a pretty darn good job at doing it.” Hill’s rise to the top certainly hasn’t come easy and it didn’t happen over night, but it can hardly be seen as a surprise. Ever since his parents enrolled him in a week-long summer program for golf at age 7, Hill was had an itch to get on the course or line up on a driving range. He took that summer course and ran with it as he began to play at Mansfield Golf in Columbus under the tutelage of head pro Michael Lanzetta. While Hill showed the basic skills of a proficient golfer, Lanzetta was there to guide the youngster, encouraging a “goal-oriented structured plan” to push him to increase his handle and knowledge of the game. Building off a solid swing, Hill was able to use Lanzetta’s advice—something Hill still seeks out when his performance starts to dip—to improve his chipping and putting, which are two aspects that Hill now considers his strong points. “That’s what I always had the most trouble with, and Mike and I would put the most effort into that when I would work with him,” Hill said. “Getting myself to hit the ball wasn’t the issue, but if I missed the green or had trouble putting, we would work at that. “Now, my short game would be the best aspect to have and the best thing going for me.” While Hill had the intangibles as a high schooler—he won the Burlington County Championship as a senior—he has only gotten better since heading off to college. During his time with the Bears, his coaches and his teammates, especially junior Chris McCann—the other half of a duo that their teammates dubbed “Chrushel”—have pushed him to another level, according to Hill. “Chris McCann and I really push each other. I would say he’s just as good, if not better, than I am on a daily basis when we play, so having him there pushes me,” said Hill. “If there’s a day where I might not want to go out and practice, knowing that I want to improve to the level that Chris is at forces me to go out and hit golf balls even if it’s freezing, cloudy and windy.” Still, despite the rankings and the success, Hill continues to strive to become a better golfer and has his sights set high. This year he has an eye on the conference championship. “Being a golfer, you don’t think you are as good as people might tell you that you are,” Hill said. “Golf is one of those games where you never feel like you’re quite good enough. “I would like to continue to see my name up there though or see it go to the next level as I keep working hard.”