If you didn’t know better, you would have thought Garrett Bastardi was already a golfer on the pro tour.
The conversation, the subject matter and maturity did not sound like a typical high school senior — or maybe even a college student.
Bastardi is certainly encouraged and excited about the way he is playing the game of golf right now, but he attributes much of the success to the mental part of the game, of trusting his swing, of his course and game management.
While he can drive the ball on average about 320 yards off the tee, he is not a “grip-it-and-rip-it” golfer. He has a plan and tries to stick with it.
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“I used to just go out and hit it and see where it goes,” said the senior at St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy. “I’d play well doing that, but course management, having a game plan and sticking to a game plan as long as you can in a round — obviously at times if you’re down you may have to abandon the game plan and try to get a couple shots — but sticking to the process and having course management is by far the most important part of the game for me.”
Needless to say, it has been working so far during the high school golf season, which is approaching the “postseason” with District 6 sectionals on Tuesday.
He has won each tournament or dual match he has been in since the season began in late August, and this week has been especially impressive. On Monday, he played 36 holes at Sunnehanna Country Club in the Wheeling Invitational. He shot a 74 in a chilly rain during the morning round, and came back with a 69 in the afternoon for a 3-over-par total and won by six strokes. On Thursday, he carded a 7-under 64, 19 strokes better than his nearest competitor, to lead St. Joe’s to a team win over three other programs.
That round was posted at Mountain View Country Club — and it wasn’t even his best round there. He holds the course record of 61, and he said unofficially he’s already broken 60 there a couple times.
“It’s been quite the season,” said Bastardi, who is averaging 68.2 per round this season. “It’s been playing really, really solid for the last two or three months. It’s finally carrying over into tournament play.”
He first picked up a club and started playing rounds with his father, WeatherBell.com meterologist Joe Bastardi, when he was about 5 years old, and started taking it seriously around age 11 when he was practicing and playing every day. It was easy to do, since his family lives right next to the 13th hole at Mountain View near Boalsburg.
“I had always been a basketball, football and a baseball player, and I still play basketball,” Bastardi said. “I never would have seen golf as my sport, but obviously it’s become my sport.”
He was playing well last season. He tied for sixth in the PIAA West Regional at Tom’s Run in Blairsville, shooting a 3-over 75. He then finished seventh at the PIAA Championships at Heritage Hills in York with a 6-over 77.
He played in quite a few tournaments earlier this year around Pennsylvania, and the highlight may have been a 74 at Hollidaysburg’s Scotch Valley in a U.S. Open local qualifier, though he finished 11th and did not make the cut for the sectional qualifiers. However, most of his rounds over the summer were not up to his standard. There were top-10 finishes, but little that was noteworthy.
That was because he changed his swing, and that is where the maturity really shows.
“I was in the middle of trying to fix a couple things in my swing,” Bastardi said. “I wanted to get it addressed as quickly as possible. That, in the long run, has worked out great because I’m playing great right now. It compromised my play during the summer.”
He got some exposure to some more courses, and the inconsistent play helped give him a little more work on his short game, but it also tested his head.
“It’s tough, mentally, but it also kind of relaxes you,” Bastardi said. “It’s not an excuse, but you know you’re working on something for the long term. It kind of gives you peace of mind when you’re not out there winning. Whether you’re playing in the U.S. Open or at Mountain View, the goal is to go out there and win every time. But when you’re working on something that you know is going to help you in the long run, it kind of gives you a little peace of mind when you’re not playing as well as you’d like to be.”
During his win Monday at Sunnehanna, a course with a deep history that has seen the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson walk its fairways, Bastardi was honing those mental skills. He finished the first round with a one-stroke lead, and he was already thinking about what a win there would mean for his “golf resume.” But he didn’t let those thoughts interfere with his second round.
“Right now, the amount of trust I have in my swing — I feel like I can hit any shot,” Bastardi said. “That’s really nice to have. When you’re under pressure and in pressure situations … I was able to trust my swing.”
Now, he is more consistent off the tee, leaving him near the greens on the par 4 holes, and needing a short iron on his second shot on par 5s.
Bastardi, who first broke 70 by age 15 and has a minus-5 handicap, is planning to play golf in college, and then would like to turn pro. He’s already played rounds with golfers on the Web.com tour and other lower level tours, and figures his game is nor far below those professionals.
He certainly has the mental part of the game down already.
“It’s the combination of working on the mental side of it and the mechanical side of it,” Bastardi said. “Over the last year or so, I’ve been taking a program that helps me huge mentally. I wouldn’t be here now without the mental strength I have now, the mental maturity I’ve developed over the last year.”