Austalosh caps career with D-III state berth
By JEFF ZUPANIC
Campbell’s Dean Austalosh feels blessed and excited about his upcoming appearance in the Division III state golf tournament.
The senior is an individual qualifier for the Red Devils, but one wouldn’t know that from talking with him. As far as Austalosh is concerned, his teammates will be with him when he tees off at 10:50 a.m. Friday at Northstar Golf Club.
Austalosh is just glad for his teammates because he didn’t always have them. In fact, Campbell’s golf team almost didn’t exist this season.
For starters, there weren’t many kids that came out for the team but that wasn’t the only hiccup facing the Red Devils. There was the matter of incomplete sets of clubs, not enough practice balls, shoes and other nuances that go into fielding a high school golf team.
When he was a freshman, Austalosh was joined only by his brother. His sophomore and junior years featured a team that was pieced together just for the sake of having a team. He wanted to make his senior year memorable so he asked his friends to join the team.
It’s been quite a year for Austalosh to say the least.
Not only did he get to see his friends daily at practices and golf matches, but Austalosh accomplished the highest individual honor possible by advancing to the state tournament after some near misses.
“I missed going by like three strokes my sophomore year and I think last year I was just one or two strokes away from it,” he said. “Before this year started, I talked to all my friends about coming out and playing and I thought I would enjoy it more. I was right. This year has been more fun and I think it has taken a lot of the pressure off me having my friends on the team.”
Austalosh watched one of his closest friends — Brookfield’s Conner Stevens — qualify for the state as well. The two have been golfing together since they were kids and even went to Firestone Country Club over the summer to watch the Bridgestone Invitational.
The duo was in awe particularly of Tiger Woods’ comeback from multiple surgeries to becoming a dominant force in golf again. Austalosh’s favorite golf memory came more than 10 years ago when he went to the U.S Open in Oakmont and watched Woods for the first time.
“I was just in awe of all of them and how consistent they would hit the ball, but back then Tiger was just dominating everybody and I wanted to be like that,” Austalosh said. “He looked unafraid and just struck fear into the other golfers. Connor and I sat in the No. 7 tee box [at Bridgestone] and it was just awesome to watch. It definitely got us both going heading into the season.”
Neither has stopped riding that wave of momentum through the district round. Stevens finished second at Alliance’s Tannenhauf Golf Course and Austalosh had the fourth-lowest score but qualified due to having the second-lowest individual score since Brookfield’s Justin Atkinson and Stevens were part of a team qualifier.
“I thought I played well. I definitely started well and felt good then I made a couple of minor mental mistakes that cost me a couple of strokes,” Austalosh said. “I finished with a couple of bogeys on the last four holes and I was a little bummed. I got to the scoreboard and started seeing my scores and I was pretty excited when I found out I was going to state.”
Brookfield head coach Larry Smoot was among several who made donations to the Red Devils so they could field team around Austalosh, who was unaware of the charitable efforts of others but expressed his gratitude when he learned about it.
“I mean this respectfully, but Dean is heads and shoulders above the other golfers on the team but you wouldn’t know that because he’s not the type of kid that judges somebody because they might not have clubs or proper shoes,” Smoot said. “Dean is a great kid that has been friends with my oldest son. He’s had sleep overs at my house and gotten up at 7 a.m. to go play golf with my son. He’s a great kid and plays proudly for Campbell. Dean knows if my kids weren’t here [at state] where my loyalites lie and I would be rooting for him.”
Austalosh admitted he’s thought about what it would be like playing on a team like Brookfield but ultimately never seriously considered leaving Campbell.
“Thinking about playing on a team like Brookfield where they all shoot in the 70s is awesome and I am sure that would have been an amazing experience, especially playing with Conner,” Austalosh said. “There’s been ups and downs here at Campbell, but I am glad I stayed here and I have no regrets at all.”