DADE CITY, Fla. — Giving up was never an option for Rick Kittelstad.
Despite a disappointing start Monday to the second round of the University of South Florida Invitational at the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club, Kittelstad, 21, managed to climb his way back into contention on the back nine, shooting an even par 35.
But it’s the senior’s resilience that his head coach at the USF admires the most about him.
“I was more proud of him for today’s round than yesterday’s because it did not come easy,” said Chris Malloy. “He really fought. He could have given in about half way through this round and he didn’t.”
That’s a powerful statement to make for even a coach, considering Kittelstad’s impressive 3-under 69 in the first round of the tournament on Sunday.
For Malloy, the ability to not fold under pressure is just as important as the technical side of golf.
“From a mental standpoint, they need to be able to handle the adversity that’s going to be thrown their way,” Malloy said.
While Kittelstad admits his confidence dropped after a disastrous 40 on the front nine, he never stopped believing in his abilities.
The senior credits his penchant for positive thinking in making a comeback after the 11th hole and finishing the remaining nine in dramatic fashion.
“You have to kind of reset your game,” he said. “There’s always something good you can find in your swing. You got to focus on the good and slowly get back to a good performance.”
The South Florida Bulls player added that the intense qualification rounds in the two weeks leading up to the tournament prepared him to cope under challenging situations.
“I’ve been in that position before with my team,” he said. “So that definitely helped to keep me a little bit more calm than if it was something new.”
As a team, the Bulls are currently in sixth place after the end of two rounds.
Although Malloy would have liked his team to have capitalized more on the home-course advantage, he’s still content with their performance.
“We did not do a very good job at taking advantage of that today as much as we should have,” he said. “We missed the ball in some parts. But we’ll learn from it and do better tomorrow.”
That breath of positive air is present throughout the team. Brennan Webb, the assistant coach, is optimistic about his team as they try to solidify their spot in the rankings, as well as make a push for the NCAA championships.
“We’re a young team,” he said. “We’ve made the highest improvement in the entire NCAA Division One this year and we’d like to continue that trend.”
As for Kittelstad, he still has one more round to complete Tuesday before he sets his eyes on his next goal.
“I’m going to focus on having a good routine…making sure everything behind the ball is good before I hit the ball,” he said.