Dylan Frittelli heard the rumblings in the crowd. He knew what was at stake.
The Texas senior — deadlocked with Alabama’s Cory Whitsett on the final hole in the decisive match of the 2012 NCAA Division 1 men’s golf championship — lined up a 30-foot birdie attempt. Two putts and the Longhorns were national champions.
Nerves and adrenaline flowed through Frittelli like a shock of electricity. But then, a tranquil assertiveness set in.
“I got it, Murph,” he said to Texas assistant coach Ryan Murphy as they studied the line.
One putt was all it took. Chaos ensued.
“I was so focused on trying to make that putt that as soon as it went in, I wanted to celebrate, but I didn’t want to celebrate on my own,” Frittelli said. “Then [my teammates] stormed the green, and it was pandemonium after that.”
Murphy always knew that the ability to focus was one of Frittelli’s best qualities.
“He’s one of those few that when it really matters, he can go into a pretty deep focus and still get it done even though the nerves are still there,” Murphy said.
It’s been nearly four years since the South African helped deliver the Longhorns their first national title since back-to-back wins in 1971–72.
While at Texas, Frittelli was as steady as they come. He won three tournaments, led the Longhorns in scoring average during his sophomore and junior years and was a three-time Ping All-American. As a senior he was ranked No. 1 in the country before ultimately losing the spot to freshman teammate Jordan Spieth.
“It was an extremely successful, really enjoyable, best four years of my life,” Frittelli said. “I loved my time over there, and I wish I could go back.”
Frittelli turned pro following his senior year. In June 2013, right in the middle of his rookie season on the Challenge Tour, Frittelli won the Kärnten Golf Open in Austria for his first career victory.
But soon after, he hit a wall. Focused on maintaining his top-15 position on the Challenge Tour’s money list, Frittelli loaded up his schedule the rest of the year. He took no time off to rest or practice.
The decision proved costly. Frittelli missed six of his next 11 cuts on the Challenge Tour and lost his game.
“That was tough to be a part of,” said Adam Wennerstrom, Frittelli’s former roommate and caddy at the time. “It was just one of those weird deals about golf that just can sneak up and bite you.”
The struggles bled into 2014 as Frittelli continued to miss more cuts. The pressure and outside noise became inescapable.
“It’s pretty tough to ignore when you’re playing poorly because everyone wants to try and help,” Frittelli said. “You don’t know who to listen to or how to go about that unless you are a very self-assured person. You just have to be that confident in your abilities that, hey, this is just a little patch. I’m going to come out of it stronger.”
It was a lesson learned for Frittelli, who says the experience strengthened him. The 25-year-old has since seen a dramatic turnaround in his game.
In 12 events played this season across three tours, Frittelli has nine top-20 finishes, including a runner-up finish last week at the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open. He is currently tied for fourth on the Challenge Tour money list and hopes to eventually move back to Austin and play on the PGA Tour.
“I know inside myself that as long as I keep along this path and I keep getting better and focusing on the small things, it’s only a matter of time before I’m in the top-50 in the world playing major championships,” Frittelli said.