MINT HILL, NC – In what golfchannel.com calls “arguably the top transfer in the men’s portal,” Mint Hill native Jonathan Brightwell will golf for the Oklahoma Sooners this year after four years at UNC-Greensboro.
Brightwell’s family moved to Mint Hill from Virginia in 1997; born a year later, Brightwell himself grew up right here in Mint Hill. Members of Pine Lake since they moved here, Brightwell spent his summers enjoying golf and swimming at the local country club. “It was a really fun place to grow up,” remembers Brightwell.
Brightwell’s dad taught him to play golf when he was young, but he didn’t start golfing competitively until high school. “I always did summer things at the club, like clinics,” says Brightwell, “but I never really took it seriously until high school.” A perennial multisport athlete, Brightwell found himself facing a choice as he entered high school: baseball or golf? “Golf was new and exciting,” he remembers, “so I just kind of ran with it. I didn’t really know then what it would turn into.”
In fact, Brightwell recalls that he wasn’t the best golfer as an underclassman at Independence. Playing against other local schools like Myers Park helped him to improve at and ultimately come to love the game. “I enjoy how it’s just you out there,” says Brightwell. “You play bad, or you play good, it’s all on you. It’s a tough game. You’ve got to hit every shot. I love the team aspect of it, but even though you’re part of a team, your score is gonna count. Not all sports are like that.”
After graduating from Independence, Brightwell spent four years at UNC-Greensboro, where he considers team golf to be one of the highlights of his career so far. His senior year, he was chosen as an All-American and ranked 13th by Golfstat.
After four years at UNC-Greensboro, Brightwell is transferring to Oklahoma this year for the fifth year. It’s an unorthodox opportunity made possible by the unique circumstances surrounding competitive sports and COVID-19. “With everything going on in March, the NCAA announced all spring sports athletes would get a fifth year,” explains Brightwell.
Brightwell could have graduated or returned to UNC-G to play for another year, but he hopes that playing for the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners will help him prepare for a career in professional golf. “My dream is to turn pro, so with one more year, the competition within the team and against other schools will be really good for me,” he says. “If this hadn’t happened, I still would have graduated, but I wouldn’t have had this extra year to play for a great program and do something special. It’s a unique opportunity, and it’s really been a blessing.”
Ultimately, Brightwell hopes that we’ll see him on the pro golf circuit in a short time. “I want to turn pro after this year,” he says. “If none of this was going on, ideally, I’d be pro now, but I’m kind of glad I’ve got one more year to get ready, This will be like a sneak peek for me.”