Sam Renner finished first in stroke play at the Oregon Junior Amateur in Union this summer. (Photo courtesy AJGA)
Sam Renner finished first in stroke play at the Oregon Junior Amateur in Union this summer. (Photo courtesy AJGA)

If his high school golf career hadn't coincided with the COVID-19 crisis, perhaps Summit's Sam Renner would have a state championship under his belt by now.

The skills are there, but Renner didn't get a chance to showcase them in a 6A tournament as a sophomore and junior.

“He's got an incredible amount of tools,” Summit coach Andy Heinly said of Renner, who will be a senior this year. “He hits it so stinking far. He's not a big guy, but just athletic as can be. He's got club-head speed that you wouldn't believe. He carries the ball 340 yards. He's got a complete game.”

If there's a knock on the 5-foot-10 Renner, it's lack of consistency. This summer, though, he is showing glimpses of what he can do when he puts it all together.

He won a Future Champions of Golf event at Stone Creek Golf Club in Oregon City in late May and finished first in stroke play at the Oregon Junior Amateur a month later, shooting 7-under at Buffalo Peak Golf Course in Union. He also picked up wins in two OGA Junior Golf tournaments – the Central Willamette Junior Championship and Centennial Junior Championship.

“It's definitely been one of my best and most fun summers yet,” Renner said. “At the start of the summer, with that FCG win, it was my first 36-hole tournament win, which made me realize, 'Oh, I can actually do this now,' because I've had a lot of second places before that.

“I just feel like my game kind of clicked and everything was working together. Most of the second places, I had the lead, or was tied for the lead, after the first day, and then I'd shoot like one or two over, which couldn't get it done. I finally got it done.”

Renner attributed much of his improvement to staying mentally on track. He credits using the “10-step rule,” a mental trick that he borrowed from Tiger Woods.

“I've been going off of this,” he said. “Tiger will hit a bad shot, he'll give his club to his caddy, take 10 steps, and it's out of your head. You kind of let it out mentally and just move on.”

He realized that to play his best, he needed to find a way to relieve the self-induced pressure.

“In past years, I've almost cared too much on the golf course,” said Renner, who tied for 27th in the 6A tournament as a freshman in 2019. “I'd hit a bad shot, and I'd kind of lose it, and I'd have a few bad holes, which kind of took me out of the tournament.

“This spring, I had a few rounds where I was just not caring with my buddies, and I'd shoot 4- or 5-under. It was just not caring. I'd hit a bad shot and I'd get in the cart and go. I kind of implemented that these first few tournaments this year. It was exponentially different.”

Renner played in the US Junior Amateur in Ohio in 2019 and was hopeful of making it again this year, but came up well short by shooting 5-over in a qualifying tournament at the OGA Course in Woodburn in the spring.

“I was kind of bummed because you go once, you want to go again,” Renner said. “It was pouring down rain. It was just a tough day.”

He said playing in the US Junior Amateur two years ago gave him a similar feeling as when he played in the Little League World Series for Bend North in 2016.

“Going to another big event like that made me realize how important it is,” he said. “I just loved to be there. I didn't really care how I played. It was a lot of fun.”

Renner scored enough points on the OGA junior circuit this summer to make Oregon teams for the Junior America's Cup late last month in Sheridan, Wyo., and the Eddie Hogan Cup this weekend at Riverside Golf Course in Portland. He shot 7-over in three rounds at the Junior America's Cup.

He has not participated in any American Junior Golf Association events this year, but will play in one next month in Gig Harbor, Wash. Next year, he plans to focus on AJGA and other national events as he prepares for his college career.

“He's trying to compare himself not just to Oregon kids, but also against kids he's going to be competing against in college,” Heinly said. “There are two or three kids in Oregon that are head and shoulders above the rest, and he's one of them, for sure.”

Renner has talked with San Diego State and Arizona but has narrowed down his college choice between Oregon and Washington State. He recently visited Oregon.

“I should probably have a decision by the end of the summer,” he said.

Renner will be looking to finish his Summit career on a high note. Not only will he be one of the favorites to win the 6A individual title, but the Storm – which features another one of the state's top players in senior Lucas Hughes – likes its chances for a team title. Summit placed third in 2019.

“We're going to be really good this upcoming year,” Renner said.