Jonathan Brightwell made a name for himself last season with a fourth-place tie in the Southwestern 4A conference golf tournament. He followed up his breakout performance by leading Independence to a more-than-respectable showing in the Class 4A Western Regional tournament.
This year was more of the same, as the sophomore looked to get the Patriots’ team in a similar position on the course. Although Brightwell was again the top Independence golfer all season on the course, he was asked to carry on more of leadership role this year off of it, something he said helped lead to an even more successful year for himself and for the young Patriot
“Coach (Bradley Gibson) told me to try to be a leader and that’s what I was trying to do this year,” Brightwell said. “I think it helped the team – we had a bunch of people improve and I was able to get better. I think the biggest thing for us team-wise is that people had to trust in themselves. I just tried to give them some confidence and it paid off.
“And I think it helped my confidence, which has definitely improved. I feel like I can go out there and beat anybody – I know if I go out there and play my game I can do just fine.”
As well as Brightwell did leading the Patriots to an eighth-place finish at the Western Regional, he had another standout individual season, too.
Brightwell fired a nine-hole low round of 34, followed up his fine conference tournament debut last year with a 71 this May and carded a 75 at the Western Regional tournament, earning him the 2014 Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly Boys Golfer of the Year for the second consecutive season.
“This season I grew as a player and I think our team did, too. We played well,” he said.
But to Brightwell, the way the season ended – with a tie for 10th place at the regional tournament – is going to stick with him this summer and drive him to improve his all-around game.
The 75 Brightwell shot was both one stroke away from an individual state tournament berth and, more importantly to him, a motivating factor. Although a birdie putt rimmed out that would have put him in the state championship, missing the chance to compete among North Carolina’s best will serve as more than enough drive to improve this summer and have an even better junior season.
“I want to get better, especially at finishing. I missed states by one stroke this year and I did that because I didn’t finish the way I wanted to,” Brightwell said. “My expectations are high for the next season. I definitely want to go to states, no doubt. Missing it by one makes me hungrier and almost mad. I don’t know if I have to do anything differently, it just makes me want to work
Brightwell said he’ll spend his summer at Pine Lake Country Club, where his family holds a membership, honing his all-around game – most notably his short game. He said he’ll compete in a couple of mini tours, including events in the Carolina Golf Association and the American Junior Golf Association, to come back even better and further develop his dream of playing one day in college.
“I’m going to keep getting better and keep working at it,” he said. “I want to improve at every part of my game and I want to get better at finishing my rounds.
“I knew I was going to be close to making states, and to miss it by one makes me almost mad, but next year I’m not going to get myself in that spot. I want to keep helping the team improve and get us in the top three teams in the state, and I want to be in the top three in the region and not even make it an issue as to whether or not I qualify. I want to make it a no doubter.”