Whether it was Tiger Woods appearing on Bob Hope’s show at age 3 or Rory McIlroy debuting at age 4, most of golf’s greats began succeeding in the game just after they learned how to walk. For Loyola golfer Garret Buckley, however, the road to success was not as easy.
“At my first tournament at the age of 9, I finished about 30 shots back from the leader,” joked Buckley about his early years in golf. “When I started playing more and more tournaments, the work and experience started to pay off.”
Buckley, a freshman environmental science major and member of the Loyola men’s golf team, did not exactly have the natural talent that Woods and McIlroy had in their early years, but he stayed true to a steady work ethic and a constant drive to improve and become the golfer he is today.
“We always saw most kids get hot for a summer and then you never heard from them again,” Buckley said about his experiences with golf growing up. “Those kids also played other sports, but ever since I was 8 it’s been all golf for me.”
Buckley’s commitment to golf paid off. As he got older and gained more experience, he began to place high and even win tournaments. Once he reached high school, however, his focus switched to an even bigger stage when he realized he had the chance to play at the collegiate level.
“I knew where I needed to be at skill wise in order to compete in college, but I knew I wasn’t quite there yet,” Buckley said about signing with Loyola. “Once I signed, I got a new swing coach and worked extremely hard in the winter so I could show that I can hold my own.”
Buckley’s swing coach, Luke LaFave, is the golf coach at the University of Detroit Mercy. After working with LaFave in the off-season his senior year of high school, Buckley went on to have an impressive season, ending with three wins and a county championship to finish his high school career.
With those wins under his belt, Buckley was then able to carry his success into college.
In his very first start for the Ramblers at the Whistling Straits Intercollegiate Tournament in Kohler, Wisconsin on Sept. 1-2, Buckley came from behind to win the tournment with a final round score of 67. The final round included five straight birdies and was good enough to earn Buckley the Whistling Straits course record.
“When I made those five birdies, that’s when I knew I had a chance to win. All I wanted to do was put myself in contention,” he said.
Buckley’s coach, Director of Golf Kyle Stefan, has had high hopes for Buckley since he started at Loyola. His confidence in Buckley is so high, in fact, he didn’t take the early win as a surprise.
“His poise and composure at Whistling Straits didn’t necessarily surprise us, but reinforced our belief in his abilities,” Stefan said. “He wants it badly inside and plays with his head as well as his heart.”
With his first collegiate win already added to his resume, Buckley doesn’t think that winning at such an early stage will affect his drive or passion.
“My goal for golf is to keep on playing, keep on improving until I physically and mentally cannot,” Buckley said. “If that means taking my game to the next level, then great, but if not, that’s OK too.”
Buckley tied for 19th at the D.A. Weibring Invitational on Sept. 14-15, showing that he has the consistency to compete in most tournaments. The Ramblers have four more tournaments this fall for Buckley to continue his good performances.
The team’s next tournament is the Cleveland State Invitational on Sept. 29 in Aurora, Ohio.