CSUF men’s golf team building pride under pressure – Orange County Register

Jason Drotter needs no prompting to bring this subject up. It’s one of his favorite subjects, doubling as one of his favorite obsessions whenever he discusses the state of his golf team and what separates the great from the very good.

Here’s a hint. It has nothing to do with seamless golf swings and everything to do with seamless mind swings. Or the lack thereof.

“If you look at the fact we finished in the top four in nine of 11 tournaments last year and we bring back most of our guys, you should feel the pressure of those expectations,” said Drotter, Cal State Fullerton’s men’s golf coach and director of golf.

“Everyone here understands expectations and that can be a level of pressure you might not want, but if you’re tough enough and you’re working your sport psychology angles enough, then that pressure can be a motivating factor. It goes from pressure to pride.

“If you’re mentally tough enough, you look at where you’re at, you look at your accomplishments and you say, ‘Yes, we are the best team.’ At times, that added pressure hurts you, but if you build an environment and culture of mental toughness, I think it helps you and motivates you to be better.”

Drotter needs little motivating to discuss how he has tried to build a culture of mental toughness in the Titans’ golf program since the moment he walked through the door. It’s been a motivating factor that plays into recruiting, team selection and overall way he structures his program.

In the early days of the program, Drotter realized that was one of the quickest ways to make the Titans relevant, and he’s never forgot how valuable a 15th club it is for a mid-major program.

The Titans are now on the verge of beating the rest of the Big West over the head with that club. Again.

As the four-tournament fall season begins, Drotter welcomes back four starters to a team that won its third Big West title last spring, displaying enough mental toughness to overcome a six-stroke deficit entering the final round. The Titans made up those six shots on UC Irvine – and added eight more – by having three players shoot under-par in the final round.

The Titans lost one of those players, Matt Wilson, who captured CSUF’s first individual conference title.

But two, Derek Castillo (who fired a 4-under 68) and Dalton Daniel (a 70) return and will serve as the foundation of a formidable group that is poised to do what the 2014 Titans did – repeat as Big West champions.

Castillo owned the Titans’ lowest scoring average (71.96) last year, a number that included his best round of the season – a 65 at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, a course that has played host to four U.S. Opens.

“He, himself as an individual, has a lot to prove this year,” said Drotter about Castillo, whose best finish last year was a tie for second at the Olympic Club.

The same could be said for Daniel, who Drotter calls the hardest working player on the team. Along with a 72.48 scoring average, Daniel had three top-six and four top-10 finishes last year, but struggled at times with consistency. He had five finishes of 20th or worse.

And the same could be said for the unassuming, yet quietly charismatic Jack Dyer (scoring average 72.88), the lone returning player who had a win last year when he went seriously low (69-66-71— 10-under) to win the Sacramento State Invitational. He had three top-six finishes, but five outside the top 20.

The fourth returner is Michael Sharkey (74.09), who spent the summer working on his putting in an effort to crash the top-10 in a tournament this year. His best finish was a T13 at the Newport Beach Invitational.

Knocking on the door for playing time behind that quartet are returners Matt Rafter (73.5 average in 12 rounds) and Jess Scheller (74.56 average in nine rounds) and Drotter’s two recruits: freshmen Garrett Boe from Fresno and Trevor McNarry from Whittier. Boe is just the type of player Drotter salivates over because of his unflappable nature on the course.

“He’s naturally calm. Nothing fazes that kid,” Drotter said. “He has a good game top to bottom, and mentally he’s ready to go at it right now.”

Along with a pedigree that includes a father who pitched at Loyola Marymount before becoming a golf pro and a mother who played golf at UCLA, McNarry brings “the best golf swing mechanically of anyone I’ve had in 10 years,” according to Drotter.

Drotter isn’t sure if either will play this year, but said that of all the freshmen he’s had, they have the best chance of cracking the lineup.

“This team has as good of chemistry as any team I’ve ever had,” Drotter said. “I think that kind of translated into a hard-working team. They enjoy practicing together, not just on the golf course, but in the gym as well. I feel like we have a real good mix of personalities.

“I feel like we right mix and right approach this year. We have a good mix of mental toughness and course management along with hard work and talent. I feel like it’s all coming together.”


Did you know…?

That returning senior Derek Castillo’s team-best 71.96 scoring average bettered teammate and Big West Conference champion Matt Wilson’s – by .01.

He said it:

CSUF Director of Golf and Men’s Golf Coach Jason Drotter on the state of his program. “It’s interesting. When you win, it’s a lot easier to build on the talent level you have. It’s a snowball effect; the better you do, the easier it is to bring in talent. Right now, I feel like we are hitting our stride. I hesitate to be too openly positive about the future, but I do feel like the program is in a really solid spot.”

Find the Titans at: @FullertonMGOLF, @BigWestGolf, @fullertontitans on Facebook, and #TusksUp, #Titans, #BehindTheTitans

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