My four main sports were football, baseball, basketball, and golf. Golf was always the one I played the most, there was just something about it, it's just so much different than most sports because there's so much more to the game than trying to get the ball in a little hole. You have all these different clubs and each one does their own special thing. It was peaceful to play, and the best part was you could play it alone.
As the years went on my dad would take me to the course with him and I would hit a drive off the first and the eighth tee box to see if I could make it over the cattails ahead. In addition to that, I would run through the woods scavenging up golf balls to bring back home to shine up and hang around in the backyard. Soon enough my dad started teaching me which balls were good and which ones weren’t. Once I started saving the good ones and shining them up i’d sell them to my dads partners in his monday night league to make some extra cash.
My dad made me my first set of clubs when I was about 9 years old. He took me up to pine hills a local club in our town, I got my first par that day and shot a 63 my first official nine holes. From that day on I was hooked, any chance my dad was going golfing I wanted to go. I don’t think ive ever said no to a round of golf he’s asked me to play.
My 6th and 7th grade summer my dad would drop me off early morning to the golf course on his way to work, id play 36 to 56 holes a day and he’d pick me up once he was out of work. In 7th grade I made one of the best decisions of my life, I stopped playing baseball, to join the golf team in 8th grade.
By the age of 14 I shot my first par round at stonebridge country club. Shortly after I started playing completely in the mohawk valley junior tour when I won my first tournament at 15 years old in the 13-15 division shooting a 73. I went on to win many more events during the 2 years that I played on the tour but mostly in playoffs. The playoffs really helped shape me to learn how to deal with nerves, and pressure.
In 8th grade I was 5th on our golf team, but I always knew I was the best, I wanted to be first and compete against the other schools number one players. That season I won the Class C Section 3 qualifier shooting 76. Which qualifies me for the NYS qualifier at seven oaks. I shot a 114 trying to make it to states talk about a wake up call. I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to make it to states.
My 9th grade year came along and I had been working all last summer. I was now first on the team and I made it to the Nys qualifier where I shot 81/80 and I had my chance and making it to states only thing in my way was beating John Clare in a playoff. I bogeyed the hole and he pared it. I miss out again on states.
My 10th grade year they cut our golf team so I was playing for a local school ilion a couple miles down the block. Only being able to represent myself as an individual, and not part of the team, I made it back to the state qualifier where once again I miss out on states for the third time in a row. I couldn’t take that long car ride home from the course anymore knowing everything I had trained for still wasn’t working I had been trying to make it to states for 3 years and I still haven't succeeded. I couldn’t stop working, It’s just not how i was built. Once you start you have to finish and succeed at all cost there’s no other option in my mind. I put a lot of work in that off season going into 11th grade and it paid off. Constant failure created a new side of me, it created this fire in me to just go get it at all cost and stop failing.
It’s my 11th grade year this is the year I told myself i’m doing it I gotta get there. I’ve been working to hard not too not too. I started practicing almost every day up at Cedar Lake Country Club it was a harder course than the ones we had been playing before and it really took my game to the next level it took about a year to get use to it but it helped my drastically. I stated to see my scores drop when I started to compete. I was back at the NYS qualifier and I shot 77/79 and care in 7th they took the top 9 to states. I finally made it. I went on to place 40th at states out of 87. Another goal complete.
12th grade summer. I beat my athletic director in a sudden death playoff at valley view for the Greater Utica City am. This tournament my father had been trying to win for about 20 plus years and just never could get it done. It Took me about 4 years to win it. At this point I think I can truly do whatever I put my mind to.
12th grade school year. I won the Class C sectional qualifier again like I did back in 8th grade shooting 69. It was pretty cool winning my first one ever played and my last one ever played. I went on to place 4th at the NYS qualifier and I was back at states for the second straight year. I had a big improvement from the previous year being there this year I tired for 7th. Through my high school career I learned many things, and accomplished goals I set for myself, I never gave up starting from 8th grade and ending in 12th grade, I couldn’t stop.
I had a passion for what I was doing, I loved it to much, competition, winning, the ambition after a loss.That's when I transferred my talents to the local school of Mohawk Valley Community College where me and my buddy Bobby Davenport played on the golf team. Going into the season I had two goals, win a national championship, and to break Gary Grabinski’s school scoring average record. Throughout the season all I did was tell myself I'm going to win nationals, and I truly believed in myself, I practiced every day for many hours if I wasn’t home you could find me on the golf course. I seen a jump start in my game I became a better player under pressure and I started shooting the best scores of my entire career in tournament play. I went on to win 5 of our 8 tournaments in regular season play. Then went on to win regionals and a national championship in postseason play. This national championship win was truly something special, I had the lead after the first two rounds by two strokes then going into the third day I shot a 3 over 75 which put me 2 back off the leader, and mentally it was tough because sometimes when you feel like you have the lead you think you won already well that’s not always the case. Especially not for me, after my round I was a little down in the dumps but I hadn’t given up and my coach and teammate asked me if I wanted to go out to eat and relax before tomorrow but I had to decline. I had them drop me off at the practice facility that night before the fourth round around 4:30 and I worked on my game till dark. The next day I shot 68 and the next thing I know i’m in a playoff to win a national championship, vs Chase Cole. We started a sudden death playoff on hole 1, it lasted till hole 5 where I hit driver 5 iron to 12 feet, Chase had a birdie putt and I had an eagle putt, but I was further away from the hole so I went first, I made the putt to win my first championship. Up until this day, this was by far the best day of my life. My performance at nationals put my scoring average at 73.22
After one year of hard work and determination the big goal was complete, win a championship but the record, I was just shy of beating it.
After the win at nationals I was left with an offer from a division 2 school in chicago and another school just outside New York City, which I declined each respectively. It was a big opportunity but I declined due to the fact that I had my mind set on making history. Arjun Atwal a current PGA Tour pro played for Nassau Community College. Arjun won nationals like how I did except he won it back to back years, the only player to ever do so in Njcaa division 3 history. I used this as motivation as a driving force to work harder, to stay at MVCC one more year and try to be the second player in history to do so and have some rare company. I practiced a lot in the off season, almost double the amount of time I spent practicing the first season. I remember one specific day in the winter that I hit balls for 12 hours straight in the golf dome up at turning stone. My work ethic, mental state, and the passion for what I was doing grew tremendously. I thought of it as this being my stepping stone in my career. One to practice this hard especially because I don’t think anyone else was hitting balls for 12 hours in one day if not even two days, so mentally and physically I had an advantage. As the season went on I shot my lowest tournament score of 65, and won 8 out of 9 of our tournaments. I went on to win regionals, and won my second national championship in early June, of 2017. I beat my 2016 national championship performance by 7 shots in 2016 I won with a total of 289 (+1) and in 2017 I won with a total of 282 (-6) and beat the field by 6 shots. I was finally the second person in history to win back to back njcaa division 3 titles. Oh and man I didn’t think the feeling of winning could get better but like Tom brady said “each one gets better and better.” At the end of the season my scoring average was 70.2 for the 2017 season. In July I was named njcaa region 3 male athlete of the year, and awarded the Robert R. Jorgenson award.
I turned pro in december of 2017. I currently just finished up with the Adams tour winter series in early january of 2018 I played in 4 events. Placing 44th, Tied for 19th, 26th, and tied for 12th. I had two round below par and 5 round over par. I am currently on a break until the beginning of march which is when the summer series starts up. For the time being I have been practicing continuously putting the main focus on putting, for this is where I struggled tremendously last month. Going into the season I didn't really know to expect out of my game, especially competing against other professionals. Nevers came out that I hadn't felt in a long time that I had to deal with once again and at first it was a little difficult but nothing I couldn't overcome. Since playing as a professional i'm comfortable with competing once again just like my college career. I've used my first four tournaments as a learning experience and the biggest thing i've noticed is that I know I can compete as a pro. I spend about 40-50 hours a week on my golf game trying to get better. I'm excited for this upcoming year and what it has to bring. But unfortunately I only have enough backing support to enter the next couple events for the summer series. With each event costing $985 it starts to add up and that doesn't count for travel fees, food, place to stay. Total cost are going to be around $1700 a tournament. With my first couple being taken care of leaves me with 13 other tournaments that I have to try and come up with money with. I'm looking for a total of $22,100 to try and cover all my entry fees. Also will be competing in PGA Tour monday qualifiers. and web.com qualifiers along the way. It doesn't matter if its $5 dollars or $100 every donation could potentially change my career. So i'm asking friends, relatives, loved ones, friends of friends, anyone, for a little help. Your generosity could go a long way. In the fact I do successfully succeed on the PGA Tour I will be respectfully giving back to those who have donated!!
Thanks for the read!!
- James Caiola
- Keith Shults
- Lyndsay LaBarge
- Dennis Hart
- Ed Koslick
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