A different kind of swing

Cole Castro may come from a baseball family, but he's found his swing playing golf. PHOTO COURTSEY OF FLORIDA GULF COAST UNIVERSITY.

Cole Castro didn’t take the typical route in becoming a golfer. 

In fact, the Florida Gulf Coast University transfer actually comes from a family of baseball elite.

Castro’s father, Frank, played in the San Diego Padres organization in the 1980s and his brothers played independent baseball. Meanwhile, his cousin is 2017 MLB All-Star Lance McCullers Jr.

When someone comes from a baseball-minded family, they typically follow that same path.

“That was the No. 1 thing on my mind,” Castro said. “Baseball, baseball, baseball.”

Up until his freshman year of high school, Castro didn’t play anything but baseball. Considering his family history with the sport, it would’ve been odd if he didn’t.

But after years of the sport, Castro decided it was time for a change.

“I just got burned out of it and just wasn’t having fun anymore,” Castro said.

He decided to take up golf and joined the South Dade High School (Homestead) team in the fall of his freshman year. Castro planned on returning to baseball in the spring. 

His plan didn’t pan out. Castro fell in love with golf and decided to pursue it, citing the emphasis on individual performance as his motive.

“I loved that aspect of how you can be independent and everything falls on your shoulders, nobody else’s, really,” Castro said. “If I’m losing, it’s because I’m losing. And if I’m winning, it’s because I’m winning.”

It was only a matter of time before he fully swapped his bat and cleats for a putter and golf shoes.

“It’s funny, my dad actually said, ‘Oh, good for you,’ this and that,” Castro said. “He said, ‘Thank the Lord. I don’t have to throw [batting practice] no more.’”

Since his decision, Castro’s family has fully supported him and his golf game.

“Nobody said no, nobody gave me a hard time with it,” Castro said. “Everybody’s always been supporting me from the beginning. I mean it took a shock to them. Of course, when I said I wanted to quit baseball, they said, ‘Are you sure?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah,’ and they were like, ‘OK, whatever you think, it’s your decision.’”

From there, the hard work began, and for the next few years, Castro struggled to find his golf game.

“It wasn’t pretty the first two years,” Castro said. “You’re starting any sport and you’re not going to start out and be a collegiate-level golfer in a year. It took me two years — three years to get to a level where I am now.”

His search for refinement of his golf game led him to John Koskinen, who is now heading into his 10th season as the associate head coach for the University of Miami women’s golf team.

Castro’s father played baseball for Miami in 1980 and had connections within the school. From a friend of a friend, Castro got in contact with the current women’s golf coach Patti Rizzo, who directed Castro to Koskinen.

“We hit it off pretty well, Koskinen said. “I think the way I teach is exactly what he needed.”

Koskinen said that Castro’s swing wasn’t what needed working on. It was more a refinement of his golf-game sense.

“Honestly, we worked mostly on how to play golf,” Koskinen said. “We worked on imagination on the greens, we worked on different types of shots, we worked on going to the course and how to shoot shots into the wind … also talked about strategies on how to manage your game around the course.”

Knowing that Castro was a baseball player didn’t worry Koskinen, in terms of being able to teach Castro. Koskinen embraced Castro as a multi-faceted athlete.

“I think every sport, no matter what it is, teaches you something valuable, not just in other sports, but in life,” Koskinen said. “I loved that he played other sports, and I think just being an athlete gives him the ability to perform different shots on the course that he may not have been able to if it was just him doing one thing.”

Castro cited Koskinen’s teachings as one of the main reasons his golf game has improved.

And his numbers validate his aspirations of going professional. In his freshman year at FGCU,  Castro finished the year with a stroke average of 75.43, ranking him third on the team and fifth among ASUN first-year players. Last season, Castro set a career best in scoring average at 72.32 and placed in the top 25 in five events.

Based on his numbers, Koskinen has no doubt Castro can compete at a top level. But more importantly, Koskinen believes that Castro has the right mindset.

“If Cole wants to do something, I absolutely believe he can do whatever it is that he wants,” Koskinen said. “But that comes down to sheer will … the skill level is there, like, he knows what to do, he knows how to do it.”

What he can do on the course as a Bull remains to be seen. But Castro has the complete backing of Koskinen.

“I’m super proud of the progression that he’s made,” Koskinen said. “I think he’s done very well.”