By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - When you’re a golfer growing up in New York state, where courses shut down for the winter, you learn how to compensate.
“I’d still try to stay active as much as I could. My grandfather has a 12 x 12 x 12 net in the basement,” said former Auburn golfer Dominic Bozzelli. “He had a camera down there, and a little chipping and putting green. We put little chipping mats around the basement and hit flop shots over the treadmill. You’d get creative.”
That creativity helped Bozzelli win back-to-back New York state championships in high school and earn a scholarship to Auburn.
Instead of a liability, Bozzelli views the change of seasons in the Northeast as an asset.
“I almost look at it as kind of a positive,” he said. “If I were able to play 12 months a year, do it every day, who knows what would have happened? You might get burned out, or you might not love it as much. The offseason was pretty good for me back home. I was able to have a forced shutdown for three, four and five months.”
By the time the snow thawed and the course reopened, Bozzelli was ready.
“It’s an outdoor sport, but it just seemed like every time the weather did break around March or April, I’d be hungry and really excited for the season to start up. I think it was probably a good thing for me.”
On the Plains, Bozzelli was a two-time honorable mention All-American. In 2013, his senior season, he was runner-up at the NCAA Championship.
Turning pro in 2014, Bozzelli has steadily played his way through golf’s version of the minor leagues, securing his PGA Tour card for 2017.
“It’s been a good year,” he said. “Going into the season, I was really just hoping to have a place to play full-time on Web.com. I was able to get full status through Q (qualifying) school to start the year.
“I’ve just been trying to soak it all in and learn as best I can. It’s my first full season out on a tour. Just kind of managing your emotions and managing your off-the-course activity. That’s been the biggest change for me.”
Playing in the final group in Raleigh in May, Bozzelli finished fourth, one of four top 10 finishes this year.
“Your feels are a little bit different than a Thursday or Friday,” he said. “You get moving a little bit quicker. All of those uncomfortable experiences. The more you can put yourself in uncomfortable situations, the more comfortable you become.”
Three weeks later, Bozelli was in contention again in the Dominican Republic. This time, he closed it out, earning his first Web.com tour win.
“I really just felt a little bit more comfortable. That last day went really well. I was fortunate to go walking down 18 with a 5-shot lead,” he said.
The victory secured a place for Bozzelli on the big tour next year. With $214,000 in earnings, he’s fifth on the Web.com money list.
The native New Yorker is in the market for a home in West Palm Beach, Florida. Auburn will remain a prominent part of his story.
“Auburn’s been huge for me,” he said. “With Coach Clinard and all of those guys in the athletic department. Just the opportunity they gave me to come here and take my game to the next level out of high school. I’m so grateful for that.
“Auburn, the facilities are second to none. It’s a fantastic place to get better, and really hone your skills. We played against some of the best competition. Our schedule was really tough. Those four years were huge building years for me. Coming into school, and four years later leaving, I built a completely different player. When I did turn pro, I was much more prepared for the pro game, and it gave me more confidence.”
“When I was a junior player, golf was never super easy for me. I wasn’t the most natural or gifted player,” Bozzelli said. “You just have to work hard. Like anything, if you put the time in, and you really truly dedicate yourself to something, you’ll see success.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer