Mason is a hole in one for this freshman golfer


J.J. Powell sat facing the door leading into the main floor of George Mason University’s Johnson Center, and fixated on the steady stream of students entering the building.

“Just watching people coming through that door,” he said. “I’ve never seen the amount of different people in one setting. It’s really cool.”

Powell has a golf scholarship at Mason. He also is studying finance in the School of Business to supplement what he hopes will be a career as a professional golfer.

When considering where to attend college, the freshman from Richmond, Virginia, said Mason’s diversity—U.S. News & World Report ranks the university seventh among public institutions and No. 1 in Virginia—was a significant factor.

  One hundred percent, without a doubt,” Powell said. “I want to learn about people’s cultures, meet new people, and just be more aware and mature.”

“He’s just a great kid, a really high-character person,” said Greg Pieczynski, head coach of Mason men’s golf team. “That’s something we look for, as well as golf ability.”

Powell became interested in golf at age 6, he said, when he noticed his father playing a Tiger Woods video game. Eventually, his father took him out to a driving range to hit some balls.

Powell laughed recalling videos of himself swinging clubs at 9 and 10 years old. He could always make good contact, he said, and he knew how to think the game.

But his mechanics?

“Probably not,” he said, “My swing was terrible.”

Clearly that has been remedied as Powell, playing for St. Christopher’s School, was Virginia’s high school player of the year in 2022, and was all-state twice.

“We know the talent he has and the résumé he has,” Pieczynski said. “I think he was interested in us and heard about the benefits of playing for our team. We develop players and make them better. He was in a situation where he was looking for that.”

“We’ve also proudly built a reputation in a very short amount of time as a program that wants in-state talent,” Pieczynski added. “We have a diverse group on our team, which appealed to him as well.”

Powell said he took to heart the words Mason President Gregory Washington delivered at New Student Convocation about how Mason’s campus already looks the way the United States will look in 2060.

“If you’re so used to seeing one group of people and you get out into the world, it’s culture shock,” Powell said. “You don’t understand their background. So, it’s helpful, especially in the business world, to be able to work with different people.”

On the golf course, as well.

“I just hope to gain knowledge and maturity,” Powell said. “I’m only 19, so I’m bound to make plenty of mistakes. But I hope Mason is going to shape me to be a really good role model for other kids growing up, or even my kids when I get older. I think Mason is the place for me to achieve that.”