Here’s the advice the U.S. Amateur champ would give juniors (and their parents!)
If there’s anybody who could recognize the gravity of the moment in the moment, it was Tyler Strafaci.
Anybody who tuned into the Georgia Tech standout’s matches all week at the U.S. Amateur heard about the Strafaci lineage; Tyler was the grandson of Frank Strafaci, at one point among the best amateurs in the United States. It felt like a point the announcers had beaten into the ground — until Tyler himself talked about it after winning the championship 1 up on the 36th and final hole of the day.
There was one thing, he said, that bugged his grandfather for the last decades of his life. “During the late ’30s he was the best amateur golfer in the world, no ifs, ands or buts about it, and for him not to be selected on the Walker Cup team, it kind of hit home hard with him,” Tyler said of his grandfather. “That’s why I always wanted to be the first Strafaci to make a Walker Cup.”
That’s serious dedication. With his victory, Strafaci locked in a spot on the Walker Cup team, accomplishing a family goal decades in the making. It meant something more that his father, Frank Jr., was caddying for him all week. And Tyler said the win will help him feel closer to his grandfather, who died years before his Walker Cup-bound grandson was ever born.
In short, this is a trophy Strafaci has been chasing as fervently as anyone in the field this week at Bandon Dunes. So he was the perfect subject for a particularly pointed question in his post-round press conference: How he’d advise someone trying to be the next to take his no-treasured trophy — and how he’d advise parents trying to support a child to a U.S. Am title.
His eyes went wide at the request. “Yeah, that’s a loaded question there,” he said. But he seemed certain at the answer, which had nothing to do with technique and everything to do with identity. “So for a kid, I would say just — you have to know what kind of person you are to get the most out of your game,” he said. He cited the contrasting styles of he and his former teammate, 2019 U.S. Amateur Champ Andy Ogletree, who he called a completely different golfer.
“We have different routines. We have different everything. But we both have found a way to develop and work. He plays a lot, and that’s kind of his niche, and that’s how he gets better and he gears his game around that, and I practice a lot and I gear my game plan towards getting ready for tournaments through [practice] and I get calm through it. He gets it through playing and having games and stuff like that.”
While Ogletree finds comfort in on-course reps, Strafaci is plenty comfortable drawing on his practice experience. That much was clear when he fired three consecutive approach shots into the gorse (one on No. 16 and two on No. 17) only to turn things around with a glistening 4-iron into the par-5 finisher.
“I’d say find yourself, and whatever self you are, just gear everything that you do towards that. If you really want it, you’ve got to go get it. There’s no half-assing it here; you’ve got to come up with that plan, go get it and give it everything you’ve got and live with the results.”
If that doesn’t make you want to get out of your chair and down to the nearest driving range, I don’t know what to tell you. Unless, of course, you’re the parent of a junior golfer, in which case I’d recommend reading on:
“And parents, I would say don’t tell your kids what to do,” Strafaci continued. “Just guide them along, be supportive and know that they’re trying their hardest.
“And if sometimes they don’t play good, then let them not play good. Be there to be a shoulder to try on or whatever and just be their friend out there, not demanding a lot out of them.”
He didn’t cite his own father in his answer — but he didn’t have to. The moment they shared on the 18th green showed that Strafaci feels he’s grown up with exactly that support from the man he calls his best friend. But he did share one other story about his father’s advice.
“I remember I broke my hand in an AJGA tournament, the fourth hole of the day, and I was whining and complaining to my dad, and he’s like, ‘Don’t bitch, finish the round.’ He said he withdrew from a tournament one day and it was on him for the rest of his life. Just stuff like that. My dad is just the best.”
It’s not just his dad, though. Tyler’s mom has been there every step of the way, making sure he finished what he started.
“They’ve held me accountable. That’s the main thing. If I wasn’t doing anything, they’d let me have it. Not in a bad way, just my parents are very old-fashioned, and Coach knows this, my mom is a — I’m scared of my mom.”
On Sunday, Strafaci finished what he started. As for following his advice to the championship? Easier said than done — but it’s worth a try.