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Thornberry giving back at River Oaks
Ryan Thornberry recently returned to Ceres to help provide instruction during the first session of the River Oaks Junior Golf Program. The former Ceres High/Cal State Stanislaus standout started competing at the professional level in 2007. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ryan Thornberry spent a considerable amount of his childhood and teenage years at River Oaks Golf Course.

A four-year standout at Ceres High School, Thornberry went on to star at Cal State Stanislaus before joining the professional ranks in 2007.

Sidelined with left elbow and right wrist injuries, Ryan volunteered during the 20th installment of the River Oaks Junior Golf Program.

"River Oaks has been there since the beginning," said Thornberry, 29. "They've treated me unbelievably well. I can't imagine myself not helping out. If they ask me to do it again, I will."

Ryan provided instruction to beginner golfers during the program's June 10-July 2 session.

Classes were staged, from 5:30-6:30 p.m., on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"It's definitely nice being back here," Thornberry said. "The junior program fits this course perfectly. You try to make it fun for the kids. It takes a lot of patience. If you bore them to death, they're not going to like it."

"He grew up out here," said Greg Silva, longtime veteran teaching pro. "He's become a really good player. He has a great personality. He's well-liked. He's always been that way."

Thornberry experienced a major breakthrough last fall when he earned conditional status on the Tour through Q-School.

Unable to compete due to injury, Ryan was granted a medical extension.

"It's been tough," Thornberry said. "I've never had to deal with injuries. I tried to play a little bit earlier in the year. I couldn't perform to my full capability. All the doctors say it's going to get better. I just have to rest it and rehab. The process has been very slow."
Ryan will continue to chase his dream of earning a PGA Tour card.

"You never know when your time is going to come," he said. "Most people hit their stride in their 30s. I've seen my game progress. I had a small breakthrough last fall at Q-School. No matter what happens, I'm still going to play golf."

Thornberry was a four-time, All-American at Cal State Stanislaus. He won seven NCAA events, including the NCAA Division-II West Regional.

He captured the 2006 Northern California Amateur Championship and the 2001 Northern California Junior Amateur.

Thornberry, a 2002 Ceres High graduate, helped lead the Bulldogs varsity boys golf team to a perfect 18-0 record in the Central California Conference regular-season standings during his senior year. Ryan was named the CCC's Most Valuable Player for the third year in a row. He also claimed his second straight title at the conference championships. Thornberry averaged 1.5 strokes under par on the season.

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the River Oaks Jr. Golf Program, which has introduced more than 6,000 area youth to the sport.

With assistance from Silva, Rob Phipps helped establish the program in the 1990s.

Rob, the club's longtime general manager and a member of the Ceres City Council, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 44 in December of 2007.

"I would have never become a professional golfer without them," Thornberry said. "I credit them for everything."