Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chris Gentle: Swinging for Success

Chris Gentle    (photo:

By Connor Durkin

To be a great golfer, you need to have a unique set of qualities: patience, extreme concentration and complete devotion and determination, all qualities I immediately noticed on meeting Chris Gentle.

Chris was born May 18, 1994, and it wasn’t long beforel he gripped his first golf club.  "I was crawling around with a plastic club that my parents gave me," Chris said. “Some of my earliest memories were playing with a plastic club and balls.”

Noticing he was wearing a New England Patriots beanie when I first met him, it was no surprise when he told me he grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts with his parents, Ron and Pam, his sister Kelcey, and his dog Echo. “My dad was the one who got me into golf and was my biggest inspiration,” Chris told me. Chris’ early passion and creativity for the sport inspired him to build two miniature holes in his backyard.

“I spent hours practicing with my plastic club and balls.” “I couldn’t tell you how much time I actually spent practicing on those holes,” said Chris.

From finishing 3rd in the NEPGA match play championship in 2005 to having 31 top 5 finishes by 2008, Gentle came into Lowell High School and evolved into one of the state’s top players. Being ranked #1 from sophomore to senior year at Lowell High, picked three times MVP, Chris Gentle has had some astonishing achievements during his high school years.

Bay State Golf Star

Gentle was a home town star, winning multiple junior club champion titles at Mt. Pleasant golf course, his home course. From taking second at a New England Jr. PGA event at Black Swan Country Club to shooting a 74 to win the Presidents Cup Invitational in 2010, Gentle built an outstanding resume during high school years. One of his most memorable and greatest accomplishments was in 2010 when he won the Junior PGA Series 16-18 Division title at Stow Acres Country Club.

“It was the first national title I ever won,” he said. “I remember it was one of the best feelings after getting close to winning before.”

The tournament featured over 90 juniors from nine different states and 52 in Chris’ group. He pared the second extra hole to win and carded a 10-over 74-76-76-226, after the regulation 54 holes, even in treacherous weather conditions. “I remember I was nervous because of the weather, the wind was really bad, but I was able to stay focused and take it one hole at a time,” Chris said.

Chris graduated in 2012, leaving his mark on the Lowell High record book. Gentle set a new match play record, 44-17-7, was the first student to be first ranked #1 at Lowell for three years in a row, and set a record scoring average of 36.

While Chris shattered records on the course, he also took all honors classes, three AP classes and graduated with a 3.5 GPA. “I always tried my hardest in school because I knew if I didn’t pass," he said, "then I couldn’t play.”

Community Volunteer

Not only did Gentle show leadership on the golf course, he also showed it through services he did for the Lowell community. “Every summer since my freshman year of high school, I have volunteered at Mt. Pleasant Golf Club, as a golf instructor for blind students from the Perkins school,” Chris said. “I’ve made a lot of friends, and they’ve given me real perspective on how lucky I am to be able to play competitive golf, and do the everyday things I sometimes take for granted.”

Along with Gentle’s work with students from the Perkins school for the blind, he also volunteered at the Lowell Humane Society.

When it came time for Chris to decide what college he wanted to attend, he thought extensively about all of his options and what each school had to offer.  “I chose STAC because they are a Division II school with a great golf program,” Chris explained. “Offering me an academic scholarship, STAC gave me the best option financially, compared to other Division III Ivy League schools that I was considering.”

Chris fit right in with the St. Thomas team, posting a 77.1 scoring average in 9 tournaments and 19 competitive rounds in his freshman year. His best game was at the Manhattanville Spring Invite, where he finished tied for 4th with rounds of 74-74. But his most impressive finish in his freshman year was at the NCAA Super Regional when he shot a team low score of 72 on the challenging Spidel golf course.

From the time Chris started his intercollegiate career, he’s learned a great deal about team and tournament play.  “I’ve gotten a lot better at tournament play and have learned to handle my emotions and deal with pressure a lot better.” 

Gentle knows how much of a mental game golf can be. “You’re playing yourself all the time; it’s an area I’ve struggled in the most.” Chris has gone the lengths to keep his mental game sharp, even using hypnotism to help. “It actually is very helpful,” Chris said, “it only lasts so long but I found it very effective.”

Working On His Game

Chris has always gone above and beyond to keep himself fit and ready for the golf season. For the past eight years, Chris has worked with swing coach Mark Spencer to help stay on top of his game. “Mark’s worked with me for a long time now, and has helped tremendously with the developments and mechanics of my swing.”

When it comes to staying fit and healthy, Gentle knows the little things are just as important to be ready for the season. “Getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, just the basics,” Chris said. “ I work out during the off season to keep my endurance up but its just as important to keep a positive attitude going into each season, it can really go a long way.”

As for school, Chris has loved his time at St. Thomas so far and continues to work hard as a Business Administration major.  Chris’s father, Ron Gentle, is a successful lawyer and was one of the many reasons Chris chose to peruse business administration as his major.

“I have a lot of family connections that were business majors," he said, "and even worked in my father's law office, running files and organizing papers; I really enjoyed it.”

For now, Chris is focused on having a strong season this year and hopes to help his team to a very successful season, like they had last season. Under his coach, Stephen Ferrara, the team went on to break the STAC scoring record, when they recorded an incredible team score of 273 during the second round of the 2014 Super Regional.  “Even though I didn’t play in it, it was one of my most memorable STAC memories from just being there with my team and being so happy for them,” he said.

As for the future, Gentle is taking it one step at a time, not making any specific plans.

“I know I still want to be involved with the golf industry in some way,” Gentle says. “As for playing professionally, I mean, who wouldn’t take the opportunity if they got it.”

Connor Durkin is a Communication Arts student at St. Thomas Aquinas College. His work experience includes freelance journalism for FIOS 1 Sports and CBS News and technical director for the Rockland Boulders baseball team.

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