For junior golfer Riley Elmes, the mental fortitude required by the game of competitive golf is 16 years in the making.
Elmes has been playing golf since he was around four years old when his father introduced him to the game that he soon “fell in love with.” Now, as the top player for LMU, Elmes is able to continue perfecting his swing.
Elmes was born in Torrance, California, but grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon, where he played on Lake Oswego High School’s golf team for four years under coach Jason Owens. The team won the state championship each year during Elmes’ career.
Elmes holds five top-10 national finishes on the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), as well as three top-10 finishes on the Future Collegiate World Tour — including first place at the PGA West in 2014. In the same year, Elmes was named Oregon Golfer of the Year and conference Player of the Year.
His sophomore year at LMU, Elmes posted a team-leading 71.72 stroke average. This was the second lowest average for LMU since 2003, and the lowest since Brian Locke (‘09) in 2008. He enters his junior season with a career stroke average of 73.64. He enters the 2017-2018 season considered to be the team’s No. 1 player, but claims his high rank and low scores do not usually affect his game.
“There is added pressure, just to know you have a big effect on the team, but I try and not look at it too much that way, and just try and play my own game,” Elmes said. “I know if I play my own game, everyone else will do well because everyone else on the team is just as good as me–if not better.”
On the occasion of hitting a bad shot, Elmes admits to a natural, human reaction. Over the course of competition, he has learned how to control his emotions.
“I allow myself to get mad for about 10 seconds, but I have a lot of breathing techniques I use that slow my heart rate,” Elmes said. “I also think back on past experiences where I’ve gotten ahead of myself and gotten real mad, and I noticed how it actually doesn’t help or benefit me, it’s much better to just calm down and take one shot at a time.”
Although it is clear that Elmes has built up a strong tolerance to the mental game of golf, he believes “sticking with [the game] through thick and thin” is something everyone on the team, himself included, must continue to work on this season.
According to Elmes, who has played competitively for much of his life, team chemistry and trust are also immensely important–despite golf being a primarily individual sport.
“If you’re not having a great day, there are other people out there that you trust and rely on, [it makes] you feel comfortable that they’re able to perform well when you’re not performing so well,” Elmes said. “Team chemistry is huge – you feel like a family.”
The team’s goals for the upcoming season include “winning multiple tournaments, making it to the postseason, but also to connect better as a team and improve [the] overall team chemistry.”
As far as personal goals, Elmes claims he “usually sets pretty lofty” ones. He would like to make the All-West Coast Conference (WCC) team again, perhaps make it to the regional, and the individual or team postseason, as well as “have fun, enjoy golf and school.”
With two years left in his career at LMU, Elmes is also thinking of the future. He plans to work towards becoming a professional golfer after his senior year. He is a business marketing major, but Elmes wants to at very least give professional golf a shot.
“If it doesn’t work out I won’t have to live with the regret of not trying,” Elmes said.
Elmes and the men’s golf team played in the Nick Watney Invitational on Monday Oct 2 and Tuesday Oct 3. Elmes placed third in the individual standings, while the Lions finished sixth overall as a team.