In Full Swing

Juniors look forward to remaining high school golf seasons, collegiate opportunities


Photo submitted by James Ackerman

If propelling the BV Boys Golf Team to a State championship title wasn’t enough, juniors James Ackerman and Chance Rinkol travel far and wide to play in national competitions alongside some of the best athletes the sport has to offer. From tournament victories to college commitments, the two golfers have achieved commendable success in the decade since they first picked up their clubs. 

“I was 3 years old [when I first golfed],” Rinkol said. “I was playing with my grandma in Marshalltown, Iowa, and I just fell in love with the game there. I played 20-some holes that day, and that’s how I started.”

In their two seasons with Blue Valley, Ackerman and Rinkol have gained experiences much deeper than their marquee win. 

“It’s very unique, and you get the opportunity to play as a team,” Rinkol said. “Practices are always super fun; we’re challenging each other during drills, and we get to add a few side bits here and there. We always seem to push each other, and it just makes it a blast.”

photo submitted by Chance Rinkol

The mutual growth fostered during the school season not only makes the training worthwhile, but it also prepares athletes like Ackerman and Rinkol to step up under pressure. 

“The first few years have been extraordinary,” Ackerman said. “Last year was really fun because it was more competitive. We ended up going into a playoff for the State championship, and we won it.”

Contrary to the team environment at Blue Valley, golf outside of school takes on a more personal path for both athletes. 

“Golf is an individual sport, so it’s your own schedule and basic practices on whatever you’re feeling,” Ackerman said. “There’s no real pressure from your coaches or anything because it’s just you and the course.”

Competing at a high level of golf, like any other sport, demands dedication both on the road and at home. 

“I play in a lot of tournaments across the country — I’m pretty fortunate to be able to do that,” Rinkol said. “I usually fit some practice in every single day to keep improving and working on my craft, and it’s definitely very time-consuming.”

Nationwide competitions can last the better part of a week for golfers like Ackerman and Rinkol, as much more goes into the events than the hours on the green. 

“It’s typically Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so I usually travel on Saturday, then play the practice round on Sunday,” Ackerman said. “Then I play a three-day, 54-hole tournament with some of the best juniors in the country.”

Though each competition weekend has its highlights, one stood out to Ackerman for its tie to a popular pro event. 

“The biggest [tournament] I played in was the U.S. Junior Am — it’s like the U.S. Open for juniors,” Ackerman said. “That was at Bandon Dunes in Oregon right off the coast, and it was really cool. The weather was great, there were lots of picturesque views and it was televised, so I got to watch it on TV.”

Rinkol has likewise participated in major events, such as the Drive Chip and Putt National Finals, and he attributes much of his progress to mentors within the sport. 

“My trainer Kevin Ward helps a lot with the body movements and weight transfers of my golf swing,” Rinkol said. “My golf coach Skip Maiwald goes to Iron Horse, which is my home course, and I go see him whenever I feel like something’s off. They’re both really good role models and definitely people that helped me get to where I am today.”

Technique and training, as Ackerman explained, are key elements of success in the sport of golf, but their mentality counterpart is equally essential. 

“A lot of people lose strokes throughout the round because they get frustrated with their previous shot,” Ackerman said. “The ability to just let go of your shots is really what separates the good players.”

Photo submitted by James Ackerman

After years of competing across the country, both juniors earned opportunities to pursue the sport at the collegiate level. In the fall of 2024, Ackerman and Rinkol will join the Nebraska and Iowa golf teams, respectively. 

“My mom’s Alma Mater is there, so that definitely influenced it a little bit, but mainly I really liked the coaches,” Rinkol said. “We had a strong connection every single time I had a phone call with them, and I really like some of the players in the ‘23 class and on the team currently. It just feels like home.”

Ackerman echoed a desire for a tight-knit team atmosphere, among other factors in his decision. 

“They just sold the product really well — Nebraska — and I fell in love with it,” Ackerman said. “The workout area is really nice, there are lots of good golf courses and it’s Big 10, so it’s a really good strength of schedule. It felt like a family environment.”

As the two prepare to compete as high school teammates before transitioning to college rivals, both golfers expressed lofty expectations for the next couple seasons. 

“I want to win State all four years as a team, and making it to the NCAA tournament with Nebraska would be really cool,” Ackerman said. “After college, PGA Tours are my ultimate dream goal, so we’ll see how things pan out.”

Ackerman and Rinkol, though they have many collegiate and potentially professional experiences to look forward to, remain focused on the present to ensure a future of possibility. 

“The main goal is to go pro ultimately, but I know it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifices,” Rinkol said. “I’m just trying to set myself up for the best opportunity.”