By Nicole Skow
Going to college is hard enough as it is. Going to college three thousand miles away, and not seeing your family for almost six months, can be devastating without building a support system. Luckily, for freshman golfer Rhyne Jones, he built a strong support system to help ease the transition.
Coming from North Carolina, Jones knew coming to Nevada wasn’t going to be an easy transition in any shape or form. He no longer has his family with him, nor the friendships that he cultivated over his 18 years in his hometown. He was entering into the realm of college golf, a place where he would be competing against people more experienced than him, and a place where one bad day could ruin his tournament.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience so far, for sure,” he said. “Coming from (high school) golf, the guys out here at the college level are just more experienced and more developed. You need to learn things real quick in order to be successful at the college level.”
Jones said the help of his fellow teammates and coaches also made the transition a little easier, and he said he was blessed with people who became more than just teammates. With brothers Brian and Taylor Knoll, Jones found two people that have become his extended family.
“It’s not easy coming from almost three thousand miles away and living away from family for six months at a time, especially at 19 years old,” Jones said. “(Brian and Taylor Knoll) were a big reason why I came here in the first place, and they’ve pretty much become brothers to me after the first few months.”
Jones first met the brothers when he flew out to check out Nevada his senior year of high school, and the brothers hosted him in their apartment. The three of them immediately hit it off. Taylor Knoll found that he and Jones had very similar personalities and a lot in common. A few weeks later, head coach Jacob Wilner came back and told Taylor and Brian Knoll that Jones was going to play for Nevada.
When the school year rolled around, Jones wanted to live with Taylor and Brian Knoll, but Jones’ parents felt he should live in the dorms his freshman year. Jones agreed to do so, but in practice, he really doesn’t live in the dorms. He said he spends practically every night on the brothers’ couch, staying up late discussing a variety of topics from their favorite television shows to just having their usual “golf talks.”
“We became great friends, and that’s what college golf is all about,” Taylor Knoll said.
Just as the Knoll family has opened up their home to Jones, the Jones family plans to do the same for Taylor Knoll. This upcoming summer, Taylor Knoll will fly out to South Carolina “to hang with (Jones) and see what life is like back east.” Taylor Knoll explained that Jones comes to Sacramento with him a lot when they have weekends off to see what California is all about.
“My friends all love him back in California,” the younger brother said. “He fit in immediately. He’s like a brother to me.”
Jones echoes similar feelings. He feels at ease when he makes the trip to Sacramento with Brian and Taylor Knoll.
“When they invite me to go back and their parents cook for me and let me stay and visit with their family, it makes me feel right at home,” the freshman golfer said. “I enjoy it out here even more.”
Jones’ roommate and fellow golfer Zach Berhost noticed the special relationship forming among Jones, Taylor and Brian Knoll as far back as this past summer.
“I think Rhyne always really was fond of the two from the start,” Berhost said. “I guess they meshed well, and it was golf that brought them together. They never have a dull moment together, whether it’s just watching TV at (Brian and Taylor Knoll’s) place or on the golf course. There’s always lots of laughter and jokes made. I think that’s what makes their relationship so great, that they can kid around with each other but still be serious when the time is right.”
Recruiting Jones for the team wasn’t an accident. He was a terrific high school golfer, but it goes beyond what his scores indicated. Coaches Wilner and Mike Paul look for people who won’t disrupt the team chemistry, but rather, fit right in.
“That’s one thing Coach looks at when he recruits, if the kid will fit in with the team, because Coach is all about team chemistry,” Taylor Knoll explained.
Brian Knoll elaborated on his brother’s comment, explaining why it helps to have the new recruits fit in with the team.
“That helps a lot in golf too, especially when you’re playing as a team because you can go off one another,” he said.
Lucky for Jones, he has Taylor Knoll for another two years since Taylor Knoll is redshirting this year. But with Brian graduating within the next year, Jones has a hard time imagining what it will be like without him. He’s gotten so used to practicing with Brian Knoll on the course, and basically seeing him every day, that just thinking about him being gone “weirds him out” a bit.
“It is going to be different,” Jones said. “It’s crazy how fast time has already gone, and I only have one year with him. I think he’s going to be up here for an extra semester, but it’s still going to be weird not traveling with him and being with him all the time, especially when he’s (finished) for sure.”
Either way, both brothers see Jones being very successful later on in his career. With his work ethic, they predict that his time will be very prosperous here at Nevada.
“He’s going to be really successful in the coming years,” the brothers said at almost exactly the same time.
Brian Knoll followed up immediately with an observation of how Jones has progressed throughout the season.
“He’s making less mistakes, and that comes from experience and being around the older guys and Coach,” he said.
Nicole Skow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.