Taking the torch: Sophomore Davis Riley steps into leadership role on men's golf teamBy Elliott Propes | 10/30/2016 6:02pm
Davis Riley adjusts his posture before a shot off the tee.
Davis Riley was 5-years old when he first started using his backyard for its purpose.
He lived on hole nine at Canebrake Country Club. His father, David Riley, would throw a few balls on the fairway and hand his son a club he specifically cut down to fit the five-year-old's palms.
Fast forward fourteen years later, Davis earned an honorable mention for All-American after his freshman season playing golf at The University of Alabama. Davis had an illustrious junior career including being one of the only golfers to appear in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in back-to-back years where he finished as the runner-up both times. The only other two to accomplish that feat were PGA superstars Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.
“I was just growing up watching Tiger Woods, and there’s nothing better than watching him dominate the golf world,” Davis said. “He was winning majors and fist-pumping and there’s nothing better than that. I just looked up to him and wanted to do that like him some day.”
Davis ranked second on Alabama’s team last season with a stroke average of 71.75 just behind Robby Shelton, who now has his PGA Tour card. The former three-time All-American was a mentor to Davis during his freshman season.
“There is such an aura about Robby Shelton, and if you got to know him and got to spend time with him you could feel it,” assistant coach Jon Howell said. “So I think Davis learned a lot, and to Robby’s credit, before he left he spent time with Davis. There was a bonding. We saw it as a coaching staff, a growth if you will, in the late spring. It was almost like Robby handed off the torch.”
Not only has Davis had to fill a void for Tom Lovelady and Robby Shelton’s departures, but over the summer senior Dru Love and junior Jonathan Hardee suffered shoulder injuries that will cause them to miss the fall. Love and Hardee were the only two returning starters from last season besides Davis.
“This year a lot more is asked of him, with Robby Shelton turning pro, he’s had to move up,” said head coach Jay Seawell. “I think he’s accepted the new role, but it is a new role. I think that’s still a working progress I think with leadership. He’s still a 19-year-old kid, just a sophomore. However, I think he’s built for it.”
Howell, a former Mississippi native, said he walked many holes with him in the spring. Howell noticed what was most impressive about Davis is his mindset on the course. He looked back at the SEC Championship at St. Simons Island, where Davis finished 25th individually.
“I think he double-bogeyed that hole every single day," Howell said. "When I was walking with him, the thing that I noticed is that when he has a big number, double-bogey, triple, whatever, he’s going to be upset. And then when we are on the next hole [he asks], ‘what do you think coach?’ He let that go, and off we are we are going with the next shot. You will see that with some juniors and seniors of his caliber of player, but you don’t see that a lot with freshmen.”
Davis’ dad, David, said he is very proud of his son and the person he has become. He said that his son has accomplished many things over the years, and he knows his son’s determination. He knows that the sky is the limit.
“Davis’ dream is to go to the next level,” David said. “You know how it is. He’s got his sight set on big things, and as a father, I feel very confident that he will accomplish it.”