Each time the golf team boards a plane to one of their tournaments, whether it be a flight to Chicago, Ill., or one to Columbus, Ohio, junior Dylan Frittelli has to listen to his fellow teammates complain. The flight is too long. Their legs are cramped. Airplane food sucks.
Frittelli has no sympathy.
“The guys complain about our two-hour flight to Chicago,” he laughs. “I tell them, ‘Guys, it’s a lot better than a 23-hour flight to South Africa.”
The first time he made the trip from his hometown of Pretoria, South Africa, to the states was in 1995, when he and his family went to Disney World. Frittelli could have spun in the tea cups until he was sick, flirted with Minnie, walked out of the Magic Kingdom with as many Mickey ears as there are days of the year and even somehow managed to play golf with the Epcot ball; it still wouldn’t have been the best trip to America he’s ever taken.
Fast forward 12 years. It was an e-mail sent from Pretoria, South Africa, to Austin that started Dylan’s journey from the country of the vuvuzela horn to the land of the Longhorns. His father, Raymond Frittelli, wanted the coach of a major college program to take notice of what his son had done on a golf course. So he wrote up a message and listed accomplishments fit to impress: No. 1 in both the South African Amateur and Junior rankings, 44th in the Scratch Players World Amateur rankings and the South African Junior Golf Foundation’s Golfer of the Year for 2007.
Sent some 9,156 miles away, head golf coach John Fields received the e-mail. He liked what he saw, especially where the e-mail came from.
“In that e-mail from Dylan’s father, the No. 1 thing that caught my attention was the fact that he was from South Africa,” Fields said. “There have been many fine golfers from there and I had confidence that he could be another one because of the success that South Africans have had playing collegiate golf in the past. That No. 1 ranking caught my attention, too.”
Fields and the rest of the Frittelli family kept in contact. After Dylan’s junior year ended, he notified Fields that he would be competing in an upcoming golf tournament in San Diego and he was interested in taking an unofficial visit to Texas.
Fields was on board.
More than 1,000 miles away from Austin, Fields — along with the rest of the golf world — watched Frittelli win the 2007 Callaway Junior World Championship at famous Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif. That day at Torrey Pines signaled a new beginning for Frittelli, which he refers to as his ticket to Texas.
“Callaway was the first opportunity that I had to see him,” Fields said. “To see him win that, it was very impressive. A lot of great players, including South African Ernie Els, have won that tournament. After seeing him play in San Diego, I knew I wanted him to be a student athlete at the University of Texas.”
A trip to Austin and a scholarship offer were enough for Frittelli to commit. He liked the campus and took a special interest in the local golf courses. Considering he had only been a full-time golf player for about three years before committing to Texas makes it remarkable how quickly Frittelli ascended into the upper echelon of the junior golf world. He was a four-sport athlete in high school, participating in field hockey, cricket, tennis and golf.
“I went to a small private school on a sports scholarship,” Frittelli said. “I went and asked them if I could focus solely on golf rather than continuing the rest of the sports, as well. They said no, so I picked up on a home-school program and began traveling around to play in junior golf tournaments. I was constantly on the go.”
He still is. At Texas, he’s had the opportunity to go all around the country. Frittelli has been to more than 15 states in America. This weekend, the golf team travels to Florida to compete in the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational. Frittelli won’t be there. He has a 13-hour plane flight to catch.
“I was selected to represent South Africa at the World Amateur Team Championships in Argentina,” he said. “It’s definitely a huge honor for me to represent my country. Being acknowledged by them is a huge achievement in my books.”
For one week in Argentina, Frittelli’s efforts will be dedicated to his homeland. When he returns to Texas, he’ll refocus on the collegiate season. He is a member of No. 8 Texas’ important trio: The grouping of him, senior Bobby Hudson and sophomore Cody Gribble that represent Texas’ best shot at a national championship.
“We [the three] have to keep ourselves playing well,” Frittelli said. “If we get a little bit of help from the other guys, we’ll definitely be in contention for the nationals. But we’re the main core of the team.”
The way Fields says it, Frittelli is the guy that keeps the Longhorns on track.
“The incredible thing about Dylan is that he’s organized, mature and goal-oriented,” he said. “His organized approach to success has elevated the team’s success. He has become a tremendous leader and I think that comes from his worldwide experience.”