As deflated as Dalan Refioglu felt during his sophomore year of 2011-12 at St. Mary's College — he appeared in only one event all season — the Foster City native can look back at that year and realize how much the frustration of not playing meant to his career.
Realizing he needed to improve his work ethic and mental toughness, Refioglu did just that, and as a result is currently playing the best golf of his promising career. On Tuesday, Refioglu plays in the U.S. Amateur Championship at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
"I love these big events," said Refioglu, a 2010 Sacred Heart Prep graduate. "In high school and in my first couple of years in college, I was never able to peak for the big tournaments. I've gotten progressively better over the years in playing under pressure."
Nowhere was that more evident than on July 15, when the incoming St. Mary's senior shot a 6-under 138 at Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Golf and Tennis Club to earn medalist honors and qualify for the U.S. Amateur. Refioglu had to play two 18-hole rounds in one day, but he was more than ready for the challenge.
"A lot of times in our college events, we'll play 36 holes in one day," he said. "It's a long day, but I'm used to them."
Besides, Refioglu had a special caddy the entire way — his mom, Dawn, who flies out to attend a number of her son's events. Refioglu selected his own clubs and determined his own yardage marks, leaving Dawn to offer words of encouragement whenever it was needed, making it an even more special occasion.
"It was pretty cool having my mom there supporting me all day," he said. "She and my dad [Ilhan] are my biggest fans."
Two years ago, no one would've given Refioglu a puncher's chance to qualify for the U.S. Amateur. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Refioglu was coming off a solid freshman season and expected to have even better results as a sophomore.
It didn't work out that way. Fully expecting to play an even more prominent role for the Gaels, Refioglu found himself on the outside looking in, appearing in just one event. He came back as a junior and played in 13 events, including being St. Mary's top finisher in June's NCAA championships, tying for 85th.
"I played a lot as a freshman, and I wasn't expecting much to change in my sophomore year," Refioglu said. "It was definitely a wakeup call, but I look back at it now as serving a purpose. Not playing much sophomore year gave me a lot of determination to work hard and get my game in order."