By Sean Begin
Ask any athlete who has met success about the need for patience and they’ll talk about how key it is to not rush, to not push, but to let the game come naturally.
For Central Connecticut golfer Monte Mullen, that lesson seems to have been learned, as evidenced by his increasingly consistent play and his win last weekend at the NEIGA Championships held in Brewster, Mass.
“He’s a very competitive guy. You don’t have to motivate him too much,” said Coach Kevin Giancola.
“My patience has gotten the best of me. I haven’t been patient at all,” said Mullen. “Coach has been working with me trying to get me to relax and calm down, sort of let golf come to me.”
Mullen, a junior majoring in finance, has done just that, saying he’s not been pushing but, rather, letting the game come to him and just having fun.
“This month…I’ve just gone out and started playing, and I think it’s made the difference in scores between September and October,” he said.
Over eight rounds in September, Mullen average a score of 74 per round, shooting 594 for the month. In October, he shot 578 over eight rounds, a 72 per round average.
More importantly, his play has become increasingly consistent. In September, Mullen shot his lowest round of the season, a second round 67 at the CCSU Blue Devil Invitational. But he also shot is highest round at VCU Shootout, carding an 80 in the third round.
Mullen’s lowest round score in October is a 70, which he has hit twice at Yale Macdonald Cup and in his NEIGA victory. His highest round was a first round 77 at the UConn Connecticut Cup.
“I didn’t notice [a change] until the first round of this past tournament up at the Cape. I wasn’t really thinking throughout the day. I was just going out and having fun,” said Mullen.
Mullen first encountered golf when he was just an infant, after his father took him and his older brother to a driving range. Mullen says his dad’s interest is what sparked his love for the game.
“He took my brother because he was old enough, but he lost interest in it and I picked up his club and started hitting with it.”
Mullen would play four years of varsity golf at Farmington High School, where he won the Connecticut Junior PGA Championship his senior year. In his junior year he won the Division I state title and the Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship.
After a lukewarm response from different coaches about playing college golf, Mullen eventually started talking with Giancola, who wanted Mullen to come play at Central. The decision to come to New Britain has proven to be a good one.
“It’s a good balance of academics and sports and it helps being so close to home,” said Mullen of attending Central.
Mullen got his first victory last season when he won the CCSU Fall Invitational. His win at the NEIGA Championship, unlike his win last year, came in a team victory as well.
“Whenever you have the personal success it’s like, yes, I accomplished something,” said Mullen. “But,” he adds, “the team win is way more important. To have four or five guys come together and shoot a good enough score to win is definitely better than the individual one.”
Mullen won last weekend’s tournament after a two-hole playoff against Joseph Leavitt of University of Rhode Island. Both players bogeyed the first hole, but Mullen hit par for the second hole to edge Leavitt.
Going into the playoff, Giancola said “I just told him to keep doing what he’s doing and just try to hit good solid shots and trust his game and trust his swing.”
“I didn’t really have too many nerves. But you sort of have to play your man, in a way, instead of playing the course,” said Mullen.
The lack of nerves may be a by-product of his more laid back play of the last few weeks. As Mullen said, “I relaxed and had some fun with it.”
The change in Mullen’s approach to the game has allowed him to have more consistency in his game, but Giancola knows there’s room for improvement.
“Monte played very consistently but he needs to work on a few things to get even better than he has,” said Giancola.
The Blue Devils, though, – who will spend the winter working on their conditioning and fine tuning their game – have certainly ended the fall season on a high note, led by Mullen.