Felitto excited to take game to next level at Notre Dame
Elizabeth Greason | Thursday, September 8, 2016
Every so often, a young athlete comes around and starts turning heads. That is exactly what Notre Dame freshman John Felitto did Saturday when he not only won the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge, his first collegiate event, but did so by shooting a six-under-par 65 in his second round of the day.
Felitto entered the tournament with the mindset that he would have to shoot low, not only for his own personal success, as Felitto was competing in the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge as an individual, but in order to qualify for the team’s upcoming event at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
The University of San Francisco Olympic Club Intercollegiate has been at the forefront of the team’s mind throughout their preparation for the 2016 season. The Olympic Club has played host to multiple U.S. Opens and is one of the most distinguished and renowned tests of golf to be found in the United States and Felitto affirmed that the idea of playing at this club was one of his primary motivating factors going into the Kickoff Challenge.
“[Winning] feels really great,” Felitto said. “I came into today thinking I needed some low numbers to qualify for our first full-field event next week at the Olympic Club which is what I care about right now. Everyone’s playing really well. You know, three under is what got into the playoffs for the last couple spots and I’m just glad to have been able to do that, as well as win today.”
The Mountainside, New Jersey, native noted that he has been looking forward to and hoping to play in the Olympic Club Intercollegiate for about a year now, and that all eyes at home will be on his performance there as well.
“I’ve been talking about it,” Felitto said. “When everyone asks me, ‘When do you start playing?,’ this summer back at my home club, I tell them, ‘Yeah, our first event is beginning of September at the Olympic Club.’ And everyone goes ‘Wow!’ and their eyes bug out. So I’ve been looking forward to this for a year, you know, since the schedule came out.”
Felitto’s golf career so far has been an extensive one. He started playing golf at age five, but his game took off when his father joined a local country club. He had his pick of schools to attend to play golf, but according to Felitto, once Notre Dame was in the mix, there was no comparison.
“[Assistant coach] coach [Scott] Gump contacted me at the beginning of my junior year and after visiting here, there was really nowhere else to go,” Felitto said. “Notre Dame is by far the best combination of academics and athletics that you could find anywhere, and I visited a bunch of schools — a bunch of warm schools — and nothing really compares to here.”
Although he has only been at school for a few weeks, Felitto has already left his mark on the Notre Dame community with his win and the community has already made a lasting impression on him, a fact that Felitto made clear.
“All the guys, they make it really fun for me,” Felitto said. “You just kind of hang around the locker room and being a part of the team is really the coolest thing because everyone treats the freshmen great. It’s not like we’re strangers around here, it’s like everyone knows you the first day you get here so just being friends with everyone has been great.”
The freshman has had the two years since Notre Dame appeared on his radar to build up his expectations, but he said that, so far, his expectations for his golf career have been met.
“[My first tournament] was great,” Felitto said. “I had a great time playing with Davis [Lamb] and Liam [Cox], as an individual, and luckily, since we were first off, we got around in a decent amount of time and it was quick. And to play like this, in my first event, was really, really great.”
Going into next week’s tournament at Olympic Club, however, Felitto said he knows he cannot rest on his laurels if he is going to achieve his goal of constant improvement.
“[I need to work on] my chipping this week,” Felitto said. “My chipping wasn’t great from the fairway and that cost me actually a couple shots. So, that’s definitely important. Short game is always important. I want to just improve as a player, improve my short game and become more of a team player than I have been. This is all new to me. High school golf isn’t nearly the same as this. This is really next level and all the guys have really opened up to me really well, so I’m just excited to grow as a player.”
Felitto will see his first action since his win at the Notre Dame Kickoff Challenge at the University of San Francisco Olympic Club Intercollegiate, which will take place Sept. 12 and 13 at the Olympic Club.