Ex-Hampton golfer’s game heats up during successful summer

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Saturday, July 23, 2022 | 9:01 AM


Former Hampton golfer Justin Griffith is getting two more swings at his first state title.

Griffith, 23, qualified for the 109th Pennsylvania Amateur Championship, scheduled for July 25-27 at Llanerch Country Club outside Philadelphia, and the 106th Pennsylvania Open Championship, set for Aug. 8-10 at Longue Vue Club in Penn Hills.

“I’ve got two chances to get a state championship, I guess, in some way,” he said. “My expectations are pretty high. I feel like I’ve been playing some good golf this summer. I haven’t quite put it together yet, but I would like to give myself a chance to win come the last day.”

The two Pennsylvania championship events highlight an already successful summer for the 2018 Hampton graduate, who in the fall will enter his final year at Division I Towson.

Griffith never reached the PIAA golf championships while at Hampton. He was runner-up at the WPIAL Class 3A championships as a junior, shooting 2-over 73 at famed Oakmont Country Club, but finished a disappointing 14th at PIAA Western Regionals and failed to advance by two spots.

As a senior, he struggled at sectionals and didn’t even reach the WPIAL semifinals, an unexpected and abrupt ending to his high school golf career.

But this summer has provided two more opportunities to play against some of the best golfers in the state with a title on the line.

“I feel like I’ve been getting a lot more consistent,” he said. “I’ve put a pretty big emphasis on putting this summer, and I’m definitely reaping the benefits of the practice that I’ve been putting it.”

With his steady driving, outstanding iron play and red-hot putter, Griffith tied for third with a 1-over 72 at a 48-player qualifier June 6 at Westmoreland CC to reach the PA Amateur championship.

He followed that by punching his ticket to the PA Open with a 2-under 68 on July 5 at Chartiers Country Club, tying for first at the 81-man qualifier.

Kevin Shields, the head instructor at Nevillewood Country Club who has worked as Griffith’s personal coach for the past eight years, has witnessed notable growth.

“Just being able to take his physical skills and put them into a score,” Shields said. “He’s playing Division I golf, so he’s always playing against good competition. … You always get better that way, or you crumble. He hasn’t crumbled. He has no fear. He wants to get better, and he wants to play at the next level.”

Griffith, who plays out of Wildwood Country Club in Hampton, tied for third out of 77 golfers at the 122nd West Penn Golf Association Amateur Championship on July 18-19 at Butler Country Club. He finished with a 3-over 213 after shooting 2-under 68 in the final round. Griffith had qualified for the event by winning a WPGA qualifier by three strokes June 28 at Montour Heights, shooting 2-under 70. He also tied for third at the Dr. Aber Memorial at Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley during his busy summer.

Is he playing the best golf of his life?

“I would say it is definitely trending that way,” Griffith said. “I would say putting has always been my weakness. I’m a pretty good ball-striker. I usually hit a lot of greens. It kind of comes down to putting. I would say this year it has been the best part of my game. It’s been very consistent. I’m making some putts that you don’t really expect to make. Those 15-plus footers. I feel like that’s where the consistency in my scores have been.

“I feel good over the putter and I’m seeing some putts go in and I think it’s just been a snowballing effect of confidence.”

Griffith returns for one more year at Towson, where he has been one of the top golfers in coach Mike Larkin’s program. He led the team in scoring average (75.1) in 2021 and placed 23rd at the Colonial Athletic Association championships. Last April, he took 38th at the 2022 CAA championships.

“I’ve had a great experience,” he said. “I decided to go to Towson without actually taking a visit. I would like to think it couldn’t have worked out any better.”

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