How Canandaigua NY Athletics Prepared Me for Professional Golf
Every professional athlete has an origin story. Here’s mine.
I grew up in a very active family. From tennis to basketball, there was always a sport being played, and as the oldest of four kids, I always took the lead. In fact, one of my earliest memories was skiing down the slopes at Bristol Mountain… at age two.
Hand-eye coordination began with baseball at age four. I played pick-up and organized baseball throughout my childhood. I was also the quarterback for the football team, and as it happens, it was a football injury at age 11 that led me to pick up my first club.
I’ll never forget it. My father brought me out to the VA golf course in Canandaigua NY, and with no lessons under my belt, I stepped up to the ball and just ripped it.
I was hooked.
Playing For My Lunch
From then on, my summers were filled with baseball and golf. It’s all I cared about.
The summer of 1998 was a particularly defining time. I was 14. My parents would drop me off at the local public golf course (Winged Pheasant) on their way to work. I would be at the course for around 12 hours, playing around 54 holes.
Every. Single. Day.
Most of the time I would not have any money for lunch — remember, I was the oldest and a fend-for- yourself kind of kid — so, I would just chip on this tiny chipping green and some of the older gentlemen would wager a dollar or two that they could beat me. I would let them pick the target, knowing that if I lost I wouldn’t be able to pay them until the next day because I didn’t have any cash. I had to win. And I did. Again and again. Nothing was better than going in and buying a hot dog and chips after a good match. That became a daily occurrence, and I always ended up on top.
I had to win or I’d be pretty hungry. And that hunger to win has never left.
Once the summer wrapped up, I entered high school. Where I put my athleticism to the test as a three-sport athlete: playing golf, baseball and basketball.
Never Afraid to Put Myself Out There
I tried out for the varsity golf team as a freshman… and made it. I spent the next four years competing on the golf course and getting some first wins under my belt at a few junior Rochester district events. During my junior and senior years, I was
named both team MVP and golf team captain. In fact, I wrapped up my senior year as the team captain for golf, basketball and baseball.
Some Highlights: Canandaigua NY Athletics
- Golf 2-time Club Champion – Winged Pheasant Golf Course
- Golf Team Captain 2000-2002
- Golf Team MVP 2000-2002
- Golf – All Finger Lakes First Team 1999-2002
- Basketball Team Captain 2002
- Baseball Team Captain 2002
- Baseball MVP 2000-2002
- Baseball – All NY State First Team Pitcher & Shortstop 2002
- Baseball – All Finger Lakes First Team Pitcher & Shortstop 2000-2002
- Baseball – Empire State Games* 2001
*This is considered to be the “Olympics” of New York State Sports. I was one of the few baseball players to ever be selected to play in the prestigious statewide event from Canandaigua. Empire State Games drew a great deal of attention from scouts, and I got a lot of exposure for baseball during this time.
Winning Under Pressure
I earned a full baseball scholarship toward Mercyhurst and was brought on as a two-sport athlete on both the Division II baseball team and the golf team. However, there were some conflicts between the sports. In addition to my scholarship money being from baseball, I also recognized that baseball had a shorter lifespan than golf and I could — and would — always return to golf. I never stopped playing.
After freshman year, I transferred to University at Buffalo to be a closing pitcher for their Division I team. Talk about winning under pressure. Runners on first and second. No outs. It’s bottom of the ninth. Up one run. Need three outs to get the win. Lights are on you. Everyone’s waiting for your next move. The batter. Your team. Coach. You.
That’s where I shine.
Some Division I Baseball Highlights from University at Buffalo
- Closing DI Pitcher 2002 – 2005
- Starting DI Pitcher 2006
- Team Captain Senior Year 2006
- Captain’s Council Member 2006
- Most Innings Pitched (88) 2006
- Lowest Team ERA (5.11) 2006
- Lowest Opponents Batting Average (.310) 2006
- Most Batters Struckout (66) 2006
- Most Games Started (13) 2006
- Lowest Team ERA (2.92) 2005
- Most Appearances (20) 2005
- Most Saves (3) 2005
- Complete Game Shutout vs Maryland 2004
I will never forget playing under the lights against Southern Miss, which was ranked #10 in the country, during my junior year. We were in Louisiana. The wind was blowing out to centerfield. I started the game by letting up a few hits and then the home runs started… 1, 2, 3, 4. I let up 8 runs in 3 innings pitched. It was a rough game. My ERA went up to a 34! I did not let that discourage me. The next game was two days later and I came in ready to close…
I threw 4 innings of no-run baseball. Over the next 32 innings, I did not let up an earned run. And by the end of the season, my ERA was one of the lowest in league play.
This “closer” mindset is a big part of my golf game today. To focus — and turn things around — even when the odds are stacked against you.
The story doesn’t end there. Here’s My Story Part II: A Move Across the Country for Year-Round Arizona Golf.