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June 14, 2021

Ridgemark duo on track for pro footing

Alex Rodriguez and Jason Sims called together participants in Tuesday’s youth golf camp, the first of three days in the session at Ridgemark Golf & Country Club. They stood atop a small set of steps leading to the pro shop and quickly gained the campers’ attention with some questions.
“Hands up – who’s played golf before?” Rodriguez said to the group of about 15 student golfers, with some of the kids raising hands in response to his questions. “Who’s never played golf before? Who’s really good at golf? All right. That’s confidence. We like that.”
For Sims, 26, and Rodriguez, 27, the introduction was a chance to ease the tension before taking the students through some basic instruction on chipping and putting, the two shot types featured that day at camp.
Leading the youth camp is just one part of the job for the two assistant pros at Ridgemark. Rodriguez and Sims give lessons to adults, run the pro shop, handle check-ins for golfers, and get visitors on the tee, among other duties. And while they had varied paths on their way to Ridgemark, they are both now seeking designations as pros by the Professional Golfers Association of America.
For Sims in particular, the idea of becoming a pro athlete once stirred visions of a mound and diamond. Sims was a star pitcher for San Benito High School and went on to pitch under a full scholarship at Sonoma State. He played two years there, but ended up severely injuring his elbow – he had what he described as a “giant” bone spur removed – leading to a big drop in velocity and nagging soreness.
With golf, he said, the physical stress is slightly less noticeable than with baseball. He said baseball’s over-the-top motion is especially unnatural.
“This motion,” Sims said of the golf swing, “is about as natural as it gets.”
Sims and Rodriguez are affable coworkers now. But as Rodriguez playfully pointed out Tuesday from an office neighboring the pro shop, he is a Mustang from Gilroy High School – a point of emphasis that spurred laughter from Sims.
Though Sims has held jobs at Ridgemark dating back to 2006 when he worked in the cart barn during high school summers, Rodriguez came to Ridgemark about two years ago from the First Tee of Monterey County based in Salinas. There, the staff instructed 400 to 600 kids per week, so his experience helps in situations such as Tuesday’s youth camp.
Rodriguez pointed out that he brought over the idea of using varied “stations” – for different shots – from the First Tee program.
Rodriguez and his partner now find themselves aligned, both working toward PGA membership while remaining committed to their core job duties. Rodriguez is around four years in and hopes to finish his last school by December. Sims started about two years ago, and aspires to play tournament golf at some point.
“Being behind a counter 40 hours a week answering a phone, it gets real hard,” Rodriguez said, pointing to the binders of work that the PGA sends out to be completed.
They also have other responsibilities, such as teaching golf to another young generation. As instructors, they always have to keep their audience in mind, particularly when most of the kids are under age 10.
At that age, safety is the “No. 1 thing,” Sims said.
“A lot of it is just giving them some sort of solid grip, general aiming and letting the do their thing,” Sims said. “You can’t throw a whole lot at them because they’ll lose interest.”

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