He stepped from crib, headed to the first tee

Golf: North Harford's Jarrod Page has made the most of lessons that started when he was barely out of diapers.

High Schools

October 05, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

There are countless stories of golfing prodigies, players who started swinging a club just days after learning to walk.

However, none of them has anything on North Harford senior Jarrod Page.

"Jarrod was only 10 days old when we essentially had him on the course," said Jarrod's father, Mark Page, who, along with his wife, Debbie, are avid recreational golfers. "My wife and I had him in an infant carrier, sat him down right between our golf bags."

Jarrod had his first set of clubs by age 2 and was already taking lessons at 5. It all seems well worth it now as the 17-year-old has enjoyed success at both the junior amateur and high school levels.

The two-time qualifier for the prestigious U.S. Junior Amateur will go for his second Harford County championship in three seasons when the tournament tees off Thursday at Ruggles Golf Course in Aberdeen.

Page, who was the county runner-up last year after winning the tournament his sophomore season, is considered the favorite from a group that includes North Harford teammate Brad Gerick, Bel Air's Matt Dixon, C. Milton Wright's Wyatt Lee and Rob Dedrich and Aberdeen's Patrick Hinch, who as a freshman last year, outdueled Page to win the county title.

"He definitely deserved to win," said Page. "I was beating him by four strokes going into the back nine and he outplayed me and beat me. Now, every time I play him I want to beat him and get revenge."

Page did exact a large measure of revenge on Tuesday, carding a 71 at the Geneva Farms course in Street to beat second-place Hinch by five strokes and win the Class 1A-2A District V individual title. North Harford also won its second straight team title.

"I'm playing well, but it's just the little things I need to tweak to get my game to where it needs to be," said Page. "My timing is a little off and, since it's off, I've been real tentative on the down swing."

Known for being hard on himself, Page has a power factor to his game that few of his peers can match. Taught the game in Ohio, Page, who moved to Pylesville before his sophomore year at North Harford, averages about 285 yards a drive.

But if Page, 6 feet 1, 180 pounds, really wants to get into one, he can hit the ball well over 300 yards and that's with, as Gerick pointed out, a driver Page bought on eBay.

"The driver is not even fitted for him and he still blows it by me," said Gerick, who said Page's game reminds him of that of Ernie Els.

"He swings hard at the ball, but it's effortless power. You can tell he goes after it, but you will still never tell he hits it that far with his swing."

Longtime North Harford golf coach Nick Panos is even more impressed with Page's iron play. "He hits irons like a professional," said Panos, who said Page is as good as anybody he's ever seen at the high school level. "They're long and very accurate."

However, a fiery temper has led to Page's downfall on occasion. Endorsing a high-risk style that can lead to loads of both birdies and bogies, he is still trying to learn how to forget a bad putt or wayward drive and focus on the next shot.

He's found that while playing in such higher-profile tournaments as the U.S. Junior Amateur and Maryland Open, in which he finished in 26th place this past July in a field of both professionals and amateurs, the attention and pressure on a player intensifies.

"At those tournaments, there were a lot of college coaches and they keep him calmer than anyone else could," said Gerick, who caddied for Page in the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2002 at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Duluth, Ga., and again in this past summer's U.S. Junior at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase.

Page made it through intense qualifying to earn an invitation to those events.

"You try to keep him cooled down if he hits good or bad shots, but I've learned it's better not to say something, or if you say something, it better be pretty good," added Gerick.

Page, a member of Hunt Valley Country Club, said he has benefited from having a friend, especially one who is familiar with his swing, carrying his bag in big tournaments. At both U.S. junior amateurs, Page advanced to the match-play portion of the tournament before being eliminated.

"If [Brad] doesn't play professional golf, he's going to be one heck of a teaching pro because he can spot something in your swing so quickly," Page said. "And if you hit a bad shot, you can take your frustrations out on him because you know he won't take it personal."

Bad shots have been rare these days for Page, who is being recruited by several Division I programs.

"Right now, I just want to get a college scholarship and do well at the college level," said Page, who carries a 3.6 grade-point-average and is interested in studying business or marketing. "Hopefully, I can make it on the PGA tour and, if I don't do that, I'll do something with golf, like teaching or doing something with equipment."

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