PORTSMOUTH — Playing multiple sports at the collegiate level, while maintaining a strong academic standard in the classroom, takes a great deal of dedication and time commitment that is rarely matched.
However, Shawnee State’s Jordan Hughes is doing just that.
As an individual who has firmly established himself as a top-five bowler and golfer on Shawnee State’s men’s units while maintaining a 3.63 GPA, Hughes is the definition of what one hopes a student-athlete could be.
“Jordan is great to coach,” Shawnee State head golf coach Dave Hopkins said. “He has a great attitude, and is always striving to be the best that he can be.”
“Coaching Jordan has been a pleasure,” Shawnee State head bowling coach Bryan Sturgell said. “He is a great teammate and a great leader for our team. He is competitive, but also shows sportsmanship. I’d take a whole team of guys like him.”
The honor of setting and meeting high standards and expectations, however, is all Hughes’.
“It’s been an honor representing Shawnee State on the golf and bowling teams,” Hughes said. “It’s easy to fulfill my role on the team when I have such great teammates and coaches pushing me to be the best that I can be.”
A member of Fleming County’s varsity golf squad since the seventh grade, it was evident early on that Hughes was going to be a special talent.
As a freshman, Hughes shot a 75 at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s (KHSAA) Eighth Region Golf Tournament.
As a junior in 2016 and a senior in 2017, Hughes stepped his game up further by qualifying for the KHSAA State Tournament with finishes of third and second in Eighth Region competition, advancing to the KHSAA State Championships as a result.
Hughes posted a best score of 80 at the state tournament as a junior.
In the offseason, Hughes was just as effective, even finishing as high as fourth in the 2016 PGA Kentucky Junior Tour Player of the Year, finishing inside the top-10 in 10 of the 11 tournaments that he participated in while winning two — to round out one of the most successful careers of any student-athlete in Fleming County history on the golf course.
His success in golf, along with a 6-6, 175-pound frame that was boosted by being a left-hander, made Hughes a wanted man in other areas as well.
Ultimately, Hughes played as many as four sports in high school prior to his graduation in May 2018.
“High school was the best,” Hughes said. “I enjoyed playing alongside and with my friends. It was a great feeling playing with a sense of pride for our small community.”
Upon meeting Hughes for the first time, however, Hopkins and Sturgell knew they had a guy who could do special things.
The connection between Hughes and Shawnee State all started, oddly enough, with a phone call from a parent whose son played a rival high school.
Lewis County native Todd Ruckel, the father of a successful multi-sport athlete in his own right in Brett Ruckel, took notice of Hughes’ golfing talents.
Ruckel called Hopkins, leading to a scheduled campus visit between the two figures.
“He (Ruckel) told me about Jordan, and he visited campus,” Hopkins said. “Jordan wanted to play golf and bowling.”
Upon finding out that Hughes wanted to play both sports at SSU, Hopkins forwarded Hughes’ contact information along to Sturgell.
The only condition that both coaches had with Hughes playing both sports?
Making sure that academically, the work got done.
“Bryan and were all for it from the beginning,” Hopkins said.
“My conversation with Jordan on being a two-sport athlete was simple: as long as he stayed on top of his academics, then it wouldn’t be an issue,” Sturgell said.
From there, the rest was history.
After posting a high of 196.8 pins per game as a freshman to knock down 984 pins and finish 36th overall at the Raider Classic in 2018, Hughes posted even stronger efforts in his sophomore season.
He posted a five-game 908 at the season-opening Louisville Classic, posted two games over 200 in his second go-around at the Raider Classic, added in a staggering four games where he knocked down at least 200 or more pins en route to a career-best 1,020-pin total on Day One at the Cincinnati Classic, and knocked down 1,102 pins over six contests to average 183.7 pins per rack.
Then, at the Mid-South Conference Tournament, Hughes helped spearhead an SSU rally where the Bears took home two seven-game thrillers over Life and Bethel in MSC team play.
In SSU’s win over Bethel in particular, the Bears rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the match, then took the lead on the eighth frame of the seventh and final game thanks to Hughes, who knocked down both sides of a difficult split to give the No. 10 Bears its second victory over a higher-ranked seed in the same day.
SSU eventually bowed out to No. 3 Cumberlands (Ky.) in the Mid-South Quarterfinals.
This effort followed a golf season where Hughes finished inside the top-30 overall in all but one event.
The sophomore, which started the year with a sixth-place finish at the IU-East Fall Tee Off thanks to a rare hole-in-one, added in a tie for second place in the Bears’ final meet of the year to join fellow teammates B.J. Knox and Elijah McCarty on the Roger Merb All-Tournament Team.
Hughes’ efforts in the Fall of 2019 followed a freshman year where he finished inside the top-20 in five events, including a runner-up finish at the Alice Lloyd Spring Invitational and a fifth-place showing in the Golden Bear Classic.
He credits his success in both sports to the work that each of his coaches have put in as a whole.
“Playing for Hop and for Coach Sturgell have been great,” Hughes said. “They have taught me many things, such as how to maintain a strong work ethic, and have taught me several drills to help my game. They have also provided me with advice on how to handle playing two sports, while being successful in the classroom at the same time.”
Hughes’ 3.63 GPA proves that he is balancing each of his tasks in a strong manner — while continuing to positively impact the golf and bowling programs at SSU.
In fact, Hughes’ dedication saw the sophomore hit the lanes on Saturday and Sunday (Louisville, Ky., Dayton), then head to the golf course on Monday and Tuesday (Richmond, Ky., Portsmouth) over consecutive weekends.
“It happened twice this fall,” Hughes said. “I bowled Saturday and Sunday, then had to leave Sunday to golf on Monday and Tuesday in a tournament. The hectic pace is all worth it when you’re a competitor.”
“Coach Hopkins and I have worked well with juggling our times and matches to make it pretty easy for him to manage his time between everything,” Sturgell said. “If there was a conflict between the two sports, golf came first, as that was what he originally was looking at SSU for.”
With his upperclassman years quickly approaching, Hughes is ready to help both programs take the next step.
He believes that a conference championship is within reach for both programs — and rightfully so.
“I want to win a conference championship in both bowling and golf with my teammates,” Hughes said. “Individually, I would like to make an all-conference team.”
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