From the outside looking in, many would say golf runs in the Reynolds family. With all three brothers having accomplished high school careers and continuing on to Division I golf, they wouldn’t be wrong. What might be surprising to know is that their parents were actually Division I swimmers with no background in competitive golf.
For CCES senior Rafe Reynolds, he really can’t remember a time when he wasn’t golfing. He played in his first tournament when he was six or seven but has been around the sport for much longer. It all started when his two older brothers became interested in the game after watching a PGA event on TV. Phil Mickelson was on fire, and the two boys decided it looked fun and wanted to try it themselves.
Their father, Steve Reynolds, fondly recalls the putt-putt course at McPherson Park downtown as the first place each boy ever hit a golf ball into a hole. One of the earliest Father’s Day cards he received from the boys had a drawing of Hole 1 from that course. When the older two started taking lessons, Rafe would tag along and play putt-putt until he was old enough for his own lessons. The boys soon moved on to the Eagle Zone driving range and the Par 3 course at Cross Winds. While those early days are a long way from where they are now, those are some of Steve’s dearest memories.
When each boy turned seven or eight, they started to play golf competitively. Stephen, the eldest of the three, recalls his first tournament. He got mad when he missed a putt and picked up his ball. He was, of course, penalized, but the experience served as one of his first lessons about the game of golf. Their mom, Lelia Reynolds, recalls a story from when Harry, the middle brother, was nine. He had hit his ball under a weeping willow and instead of being discouraged about the difficulty of the shot, Harry was simply in awe of the large tree. He proceeded to make par on that hole. The story perfectly illustrates how the Reynolds boys feel about the sport. For each of them, golf has always been just as much about the experience and the journey as it has been about winning.
Due to their ages, their levels of skill and experience have varied over the years, but that has not stopped the three from learning from one another. For Rafe, his brothers have had a huge impact on his game. As the youngest, he was always a few steps behind the other two, but notes that this motivated him to work hard and improve. He also enjoyed consulting his brothers “on why and how they played certain shots.”
As the oldest, Stephen hoped his brothers could learn from some of his mistakes, but admits that he still learns from them as well. Harry, who ends his golf swing in identical pose to Rafe likes to joke that he is the one to credit with his brother’s form. But, he says in all seriousness, “the best thing about having siblings who play the same sport as you is being able to practice and play together.” It is certainly evident how much respect they have for each other and how they have all grown as golfers from playing with one another.
This is not to say that when the three get together to golf, things don’t get competitive. They certainly do. On a scale of one to ten, Rafe ranks his own competitive nature at an eight, but says it definitely can get all the way to ten. Stephen says that there is always a lot of trash talk when the three play, but it’s always fun in the end. The three all agree that it is always close when they play and that anyone can win on any given day. Rafe did want to point out that he won when they played most recently, and Stephen says they have heard about it several times since then. Unfortunately, due to their vastly differently schedules, much of their golfing time together is now limited to the summer.
The three brothers all played under the same high school coach, Kristen Rooke. She took over the CCES Boys Golf program the year Stephen joined the team as a seventh grader. Harry joined two years later and two years after that, Rafe joined, giving Coach Rooke two years with all three on the team together. During that time span, the Cavaliers have won eight state championships, including their current streak of seven in a row. Coach Rooke notes that the three brothers all have different strengths as players and certainly contributed largely to their success as a program. As for Rafe, who is in his last months as a Cavalier, she praises his work ethic and leadership. “He works hard on his conditioning, his mental preparedness and the technical parts of the game,” she says. She also lauds how supportive and inclusive he is with all of his teammates and says of his leadership: “When it is needed, he is firm, but he does not ask for more than he is willing to give [himself].”
From high school and beyond, Stephen, Harry, and Rafe certainly each have their own long list of accomplishments. Stephen won five high school state championships and is wrapping up his college career at Furman. Harry won six state championships and is about to finish his sophomore year at Indiana. Rafe is the captain of the current CCES Golf Team. He already has five state championships to his name. He signed his letter of intent in November to golf at the University of South Carolina. While he is trying to cherish his final months at CCES and not get too ahead of himself, he does admit he’s extremely excited about the opportunity to golf in the SEC.
From summer tournaments and high school championships to signing days and college careers, there are countless memories that all include this game they love so much. However, for their parents, what is greater than any of those things is how golf has impacted the relationship between the brothers. Lelia notes that they are extremely competitive with one another, but there is never an unpleasant edge to it. They truly respect each other and celebrate each other’s successes, something that is probably rare for siblings so close in age and who all play the same sport. Steve says that not only do they revel in each other’s victories, but they are also quick to empathize when one falls short. In his words: “They all love the game, but more importantly the game has helped them love each other.”