At the age of 9, Cristian DiMarco was already playing golf on a daily basis at Heathrow Country Club in Orlando.
His father, Chris DiMarco, was one of the top golfers on the PGA tour during his prime with three career wins and finishing second behind Tiger Woods at the 2005 Masters Tournament.
Now, after a stellar junior season at USF and a productive summer, DiMarco is ready to finish his collegiate career on the top of his game and follow in his father’s footsteps to join the PGA Tour.
“I’ve had a club in my hand since I could walk,” DiMarco said, minutes after completing a one-under par performance at a qualifying round at TPC Tampa Bay earlier in September.
With golfing in his blood, it was only natural that his father would have some influence over his future.
Legendary PGA golfer Tiger Woods was playing golf at a young age and made appearances on television at the discretion of his father, and DiMarco was no different. He picked up the game naturally and was able to spend time with the game and his father at the same time.
“I started taking it more seriously and going to the golf course every day around 9 or 10 years old,” DiMarco said.
DiMarco went to Lake Mary Preparatory School, where he joined the golf team and started playing competitively in the 7th grade. DiMarco played basketball and tennis as a freshman in high school, but focused on golf as he developed as a player.
As a senior, Cristian and his teammate Austen Truslow – who is now in pursuit of joining the PGA tour – led their team to a state title.
“Our team was really good,” Dimarco said. “Another guy, Austen Truslow, me and him went back and forth between one and two. All our top five are playing division one golf.”
After leaving his mark in high school and establishing himself as a dominant individual golfer, DiMarco took an opportunity to play golf at the University of Kentucky before he became a two-time American Athletic Conference champion at USF.
Surprisingly enough, weather played a factor in his decision to return to his home state.
“I went to Kentucky and loved it,” DiMarco said. “But the winters just weren’t for me. Snow four months of the year and hitting off mats indoors, I just couldn’t get better there.”
In addition to the warmer weather year-round, DiMarco ultimately chose USF because coach Steve Bradley gave DiMarco a chance despite an uneventful freshman season as a Wildcat.
“Coach Bradley gave me an opportunity to play here and it has turned my game around.” DiMarco said.
While USF helped change DiMarco’s golf game for the better, he did the same for the program.
“My kids will have a lot of opportunities, you just hope that you raise them right,” Chris DiMarco said in an interview with GolfDigest.
Already the Bulls No. 1 golfer and Unanimous American all-conference selection last season, DiMarco is still working to achieve more.
“My coach, Adam Schriber and I, we’ve been working on some good stuff and it’s finally starting to click,” DiMarco said. “I just want to give myself a chance to win as much as possible and all the All-American stuff will all come with it.”
DiMarco said he understands that each accolade is a stepping-stone to his final goal.
“We just try to take it one step at a time, one tournament at a time, one round at a time,” DiMarco, who tied for the lead at the end of regulation and finished second at the American Athletic Conference Championship last season, said. “If I do all that, I know I can compete with anybody. Long goals will happen if I meet my smaller goals.”
The goals include graduating from USF with a degree in Communications before pursuing a professional golfing career. He aims to go to the Canadian Qualifying School, which is a tour of tournaments in which players compete to earn their pro cards and become a part of the PGA.
“I don’t want to say I’ve bursted on the scene because I haven’t accomplished everything I want to yet,” DiMarco said. “Until last spring, I hadn’t really done anything special in college golf.”
Since the spring, DiMarco has won multiple tournaments and won the state amateur championship.
He went from a good golfer in high school to a collegiate athlete who will be competing for professional status in a year’s time.
“I’ve been focused since last spring,” DiMarco said. “I got a girlfriend, Jordyn Listro (USF soccer alum), and she really kinda pulled the reigns and got me to play better.”
DiMarco’s golf career started because he has been surrounded by the game his entire life.
“I don’t know what its like to live without golf,” DiMarco said. “People don’t compare me to my dad, at least not to my face they don’t. It’s a challenge that I like. (My Dads past success) raises the bar for my play and keeps me focused.”