In the last decade, there have only been a couple of San Benito High golfers who have gone on to play and excel at the college level. Brad Sparrer, a 2017 graduate, could end up having the best college resume of them all when it’s all said and done. The Cal State University Stanislaus junior recently wrapped up a terrific fall season that included a victory and top-10 finish that has him fired up for the main spring season which starts in January.
“I set high expectations for myself in the fall and accomplished one of my goals by winning a tournament,” he said. “I worked hard and made sure I was really focused this year, and hopefully that pattern continues into the spring season.”
After a standout career at San Benito High, Sparrer was determined to not be just an average player in the college game. Mission accomplished. In a ultra-competitive field, the lefty won his first collegiate tournament at the Otter Invitational on the Bayonet Golf Course at Bayonet/Blackhorse Golf Club in early October, shooting a 6-under par 210.
He fired off rounds of 70-69-71, the first two of which was played on a Monday. The next day, Sparrer had to come back to play another 18 holes to clinch the victory. The best part about winning the Otter Invitational? Sparrer got to do it in front of family members and friends since the Seaside course was only a short drive from Hollister.
“The win meant a lot because it was close to home,” he said. “Having it all come together that week was really special, and I’m happy where my game is at right now.”
He should be. In the tournament before the Otter Invitational, Sparrer recorded his first-ever top-10 finish, finishing ninth in the Western Washington Invitational. His breakthrough can be traced to hard work and talent melding at an opportune time. Sparrer has literally put in thousands of hours on the range and course since he took up the game, and the results speak for themselves.
“My game has come a long way since I was a freshman, and it’s come a long way even from last year,” he said. “I’m more mature on the mental side of things. As you get older, you realize getting upset about a shot is not worth it, so I don’t even worry about that kind of stuff anymore. I move on, take it one shot at a time and don’t let anything bother me. I go out there and play the best I can everyday. I’m sticking to a routine and keeping the same process seven days a week. It’s really about believing in yourself and having that confidence knowing you can pull it off.”
Sparrer said his strengths are off the tee and with the putter, as he can drive it long and with accuracy. Combine that with a Midas touch on the greens, and Sparrer is capable of going a couple of shots under par in a given round. All of Sparrer’s talents were on display in the final round of the Otter Invitational, when Sparrer hit a hole in one on the par-3 17th, which was playing at 219 yards. Sparrer hit a 6-iron to the front of the green before the ball rolled for a second or two and dropped in the cup. Talk about a moment of sheer nirvana.
“It looked good in the air, and once it hit the green some of my playing partners said, ‘Oh, be good, be good.'” Sparrer said. “I didn’t say anything at that point, but once it dropped I started getting really excited and started high-fiving everybody I could.”
Sparrer was set to go with a 5-iron until one of his teammates, Kobe Lockwood, told him that he should go with a 6-iron. The advice proved to be spot on, but it took a fortuitous turn of events for the two to have an exchange. Lockwood’s group was ahead of Sparrer’s but there was a backup on the hole. As a result, Lockwood was still on the tee box when Sparrer’s group arrived. What made Sparrer’s tournament all the more enjoyable was the fact he was paired with former Balers teammate Nick Caputo, who competes for Chico State. The two had never played together in college until now, and it made for a great reunion and round.
Caputo is a senior at Chico State and last year received a Division II Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Award. The Otter Invitational was a two-day tournament, featuring a grueling 36 holes on the first day and 18 the following day. Playing 54 holes in two days can be downright exhausting, and Sparrer knew to put a premium on hydration and nutrition.
“Playing 36 holes in a day drains you physically and mentally,” he said. “You have to drink lots of water and make sure you’re eating so you can stay focused. A lot of people don’t realize you can lose yourself out there on the golf course. If you don’t maintain focus and grind it out, you’re not going to play to well.”
Prior to the Otter Invitational, Sparrer had played Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Club close to a half-dozen times, and that helped him win the tournament.
“It makes it easier with preparation because you know what to expect and you’re not going in there blind,” he said. “I feel the more times you play a golf course, the better you’ll be there.”
Golf is one of the few sports in the college landscape that has two playing seasons. The fall is the short season, while the spring features the conference and national championships. Sparrer loves the fact that the college golf season is pretty much year-round on the school calendar. The fall season ends in late October before the spring season starts up in January. In between the seasons, Sparrer will still be working hard on his game.
“It’s really nice actually,” he said. “It makes you keep working hard and keep playing. There is no time for time off.”