BELFAST — To be the best version of one’s self, an athlete must work. Then work some more.

When it comes to golf, James Ritter has done that. In spades.

He has paid, and continues to pay, his dues. And the results speak for themselves.

In fact, the soon-to-be Belfast Area High School senior has never been one to rest on his laurels, which he easily could after strong links success his first three years for the Lions.

James Ritter on the course. Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Porter.

However, the 18-year-old Northport resident has taken himself — and his game — to the next level this summer through determination, hard work, stern tests and, well, facing topnotch competition.

“Over the summer I have been putting a lot of work into my golf game and played in a few New England Junior PGA tournaments,” Ritter said.

In his first event in Waterville Country Club in Oakland, he placed 10th among a strong field and, more recently, played at Natanis Golf Club in Vassalboro and placed second, one stroke behind the leader, with an 18-hole score of 75.

“I feel, this summer, I have consistently been hitting the ball the best I ever have and I’m extremely confident for the next few tournaments in August and the upcoming [high school golf] season,” Ritter said.

Of course, Ritter could rest on his golf achievements, given the fact in three previous high school seasons he has “created a great resumé,” being No. 1 on the Lions’ depth chart and a two-time Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference all-conference selection.

The Northport Golf Club member, who has a five handicap, also has qualified for the state Class B high school individual championships three years. During his junior season, he finished 11-0 in individual matches and 11th among 73 in the state event.

“I have no less expectations for my senior season and am chasing my goal to finally get my state title,” he said. “I am beyond excited to see where golf takes me in pursuing my dreams of playing collegiate golf.”

Ritter’s best nine-hole score is 33 and lowest 18-hole score 73.

“James is really working hard at his game,” said Scott Benzie, BAHS golf coach. “He is making the commitment it takes to perform at a high level against top competition. He has the physical tools, now he is putting together the mental approach it takes to handle the pressure. From my experience as a Division 1 coach …. he has a tremendous upside.”

And, perhaps, the mental aspect of the game is the most difficult to master. Ritter can, as they say in golf, pound the ball off the tee

“I create a huge advantage off the tee compared to other competitors as I have hit a long ball my whole life,” he said.

Besides getting great length from his swings on the tee box, he also has a solid iron game and chips and putts well.

However, it is his mental approach to the game that, perhaps, continues to be defined and refined.

“I feel one thing I do best is my attitude towards the game,” Ritter said. “Anyone who plays golf will know that golf is as mentally challenging as it is to play it. Even when having a bad round, putting yourself into a good mental state throughout the whole round will not only put you in better position, but will allow you to have a huge advantage over other competitors.”

The son of Jamie and Heather Ritter also has worked on another important aspect of his game — namely, course management.

“I feel my course management and the way I approach a golf course is something that will spark me to win golf tournaments and more matches, as I will always play conservative off the tee and will look to attack pins when I’m in a comfortable yardage,” he said. “I feel right now I’m in the best condition to win tournaments.”

From this point, Ritter will see how far and high his game — and hard work — take him.