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When knee injuries separated Johnathan Hendricks from the sport of baseball and the position of catcher, he played golf for three years.
But in 2018, his senior year at Fike High, Hendricks, the son of Albert and Patricia Hendricks, became a true golfer.
After averaging 120 strokes per round as a freshman, the 17-year-old Hendricks moved into the No. 2 spot in the Fike lineup this past season and compiled an 82 average — an improvement of 38 strokes per round from his freshman year — in helping the Golden Demons to another 3-A Big East Conference championship.
Hendricks is not through. His final nine-hole effort of 38 in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A East Regional in early May didn’t go unnoticed by Johnston Community College coach Ed Ransopher
A visit to the Smithfield campus resulted in the 6-foot-2, 150-pound Hendricks signing a National Letter of Intent to accept an athletic scholarship with the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Jaguars. The scholarship becomes effective Hendricks’ second semester.
“I really hadn’t considered college golf,” Hendricks said. “It’s my life now. When I don’t play golf, I feel bored.”
The possessor of a 3.25 grade-point average, Hendricks plans to pursue a nursing career.
As a senior, Hendricks earned all-conference acclaim for the first time and finished No. 4 among individuals from the five teams. His competitive low round was a 77 — when he finished the Wilson County Championship runner-up at Wilson Country Club. Hendricks has since posted a 73 at Happy Valley Country Club, where he has worked for nearly a year.
Hendricks has been a Golden Demon for four years, starting the last three.
He admits he needed about two years to buy into the work ethic necessary to improve his game, but proudly noted: “I went from swinging the sticks to knowing what the game is about.”
The Jaguars recruit liked Ransopher’s politeness and willingness to approach him after a match. Hendricks also pointed out Johnston won the Region X title last season.
“I feel like I need to work on my consistency,” Hendricks said. “I know I have got the swing for it. I have to figure it out. I would like to see us make it to the nationals and I want to try to be the best on the team.”
Hendricks explained his parents discouraged him from playing golf while involved in baseball. But since turning to golf, they have been surprised and pleased with his development. He thanked Happy Valley golf professional Gary Hobgood, interim Fike coach Mike Matthews and Demons head coach Glenn Jones for their encouragement.
But anchoring Hendricks’ dramatic improvement was former Fike teammate and current Barton College star Bryson Boyette.
“Everything I know in golf is thanks to him,” Hendricks assured. “I remember he once asked me why I never really tried. Then he watched me on the range for 30 minutes to an hour and said: ‘Why don’t you play like that all the time?’ “
“I told him I was scared I would fail. Now, we play about every day and, if we can get more than one round in, we do.”
Under Boyette’s tutelage, Hendricks’ driving distance has increased from 100 to 300-plus yards and Hendricks prides himself on possessing a high swing speed.
“I’m really humble about it,” Hendricks remarked of his stunning improvement. “I don’t really try to brag about it. But I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it.
“I never thought I would play golf in college. Now, I want to take it as far as I can.”