Game, not name, making UVU's Mason Casper a force on the golf course
"I was kind of like, 'Yeah, you've earned your spot,'" Curran said.
Matching Casper's talent with college-level experience became the next step. Mastering the preparation and mental toughness required at the collegiate level, with team rankings and postseason bids at stake, made golf a different game altogether for the late-blooming Casper.
He wrecked the learning curve, finishing his first half-season on the team with three top-five finishes over five tournaments.
"My goal going into every tournament is to win, obviously, but to finish top-10 or top-five is second and third," Casper said. "Just having the goals and having the mindset ... that's just helped me to experience feeling comfortable under those circumstances."
The 2011-12 season saw more progress. Casper and the Wolverines won individual and team honors at The Battle of the Tetons, with Casper shooting in the 60s all three rounds. He logged six additional top-10 finishes that season on his way to being named the America Sky Conference Golfer of the Year.
Casper has done more of the same this season, earning his third career first-place finish, a second conference player of the year award and a second straight trip to the NCAA Regionals.
Curran compares Casper's emergence on the golf course to an actor breaking out in the right show.
"He definitely had the confidence. He kind of just needed the stage," Curran said. "He'd played in all these amateur events, but he needed a bigger stage. For an amateur golfer, college golf is about as big as you can get."
After wrapping up a brief conversation with another course employee, Casper resumed his putting practice at East Bay, the same course where his parents often dropped him off to practice as a kid.
Curran watched while answering questions about the golfer who went from a walk-on to the one he now regards as his "marquee player."
"I think he's one of the best short-to-midrange putters I've ever seen," Curran said. "That's a huge part of the game."
It could have been coincidence or embarrassment from overhearing his coach's praise. It was impossible to tell. Casper missed the next putt. Irritated, he dragged the ball back with his putter, intent on erasing the error, replacing it with a made attempt.
It's that manic work ethic, CurranCasper said, not the family's past in the sport, that has made the Casper surname emerge in golfing circles once again.
"I can't ever discount that I've been born with the blood to play," Casper said. "People would think that I play with my grandpa all the time. My dad taught me the basics of golf and helped me. Apart from that, I've worked my butt off to get better. It's been a lot of time on my part to just practice and get better."
Casper is intent on remembering that lesson. He has a kid of his own now, a 1-year-old son. He might play golf someday. If Casper continues to excel and manages to take his game to the next level, he wants the progress to get there — not the resulting reputation — to be what his son takes with him.
"That's the thing I want my kids to know," Casper said. "A last name and a family reputation can only take you so far. You're the one that has to work and prove yourself. You can't just ride that last name."
Matt Petersen is the Sports Web Editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.
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