Piles’ play lacking after strong fall

Sam Sayler

Riley Piles started his foray into college golf on a high note last season. He finished in the top five twice, including a fourth-place tie at the Ichabod Invitational. Now in his sophomore year, Piles has found himself in a bit of a slump when it comes to putting the ball in the hole. Recently, in a tournament in Mission Viejo, Calif., Piles tied for 32nd.

“Last season, I played pretty well,” said Piles. “I finished in the top two in a couple tournaments, won one. Other than that, I was a little inconsistent, but it was a successful season.”

Piles does not deny the reversal in the way he has played as of late.

“Lately, I’ve been struggling with my swing a little bit, a little bit of consistency,” said Piles.

As is common with the Washburn golfers, Piles does mention that the team has not been able to practice outdoors as much as they would like.

“The weather hasn’t been the greatest, so we haven’t been able to practice that much,” said Piles.

With tournaments still remaining in the season, Piles thinks that he can bring his game up to a higher pedigree.

“I think I can start improving by just practicing a lot and getting mentally focused and mentally stronger,” said Piles.

No matter how Piles performs for the rest of his college golf days, he still has the respect of his friends and teammates.

“I’ve been out here for about a year now,” said freshman golfer Jeffery Jarvis. “I’ve watched him, noticed him progress over the years. We’ve probably known him for two years now, and I know that after his freshman year, after talking to him, he kind of struggled. He wasn’t really happy with what he did, but it seemed after this last fall, he improved quite a bit. All of his practice and hard work has been paying off.

“I know that he’ll keep doing that. He’s one of the most dedicated guys on the team. I hope one of these times, in a couple years, he’ll be a leader when he’s a senior, and he’ll lead us into more championships.”

Coach Doug Hamilton has noticed a change in Piles and has been working with the young golfer to help overcome adversity and conquer the links.

“Riley Piles has been experiencing a bit of an up and down year, from times in the fall when he played extremely well to time this spring where he’s really struggled,” said Hamilton. “You explain that fairly easily. When he came out of high school, Riley had kind of a unique golf swing, and it was one that was very high tempo, very heavy-handed with his right hand, and really tried to control the ball with his right hand. We’ve tried to make adjustments to that swing, which slowed down his tempo, and we’re trying to lengthen his swing a little bit, and it’s been a big adjustment for Riley, and I applaud him for making the effort to make the change, because I think for him to become as good a player as he can become, he needed to make a swing change.”

Hamilton also points out that such a problem is common among golfers and he has no worries for Piles’ future.

“Tiger Woods’s swing change, when he did that a few years ago, it got a lot of publicity and notoriety, and he struggled for a brief time while he was going through that, and any golfer that does that is going to struggle and have some inconsistency, so Riley’s still working through that,” said Hamilton. “He’s still working towards completing the swing change, but he’s on track, and he’s doing well.

“I’m proud of the effort that he’s given it. Even though he gets frustrated from time to time, he really tries to stay with the new swing, and I think that’s important, and I think the more he gets comfortable with it, the more he gets the opportunity to use that in tournaments, the more efficient he’ll be. I expect by this summer, hopefully even later this spring, it’ll be solidly engrained in him, and it’ll be a much more efficient golf swing for him. We expect good thing from Riley in the future, but we know we have a little bit of a rocky period now.”