Switching Sports Pays Big For Gamblin' Man Tomasulo

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Cal golfer Pete Tomasulo has 14 career top-10 finishes, the school record for lowest single-season scoring average, and first team All-Pac-10 distinction.

Not bad for someone whose first love was soccer.

Tomasulo filled the most glaring hole in his resume last week, winning the Barona Collegiate Classic for his first tournament victory, in the Bears' final event of the fall season.

Tomasulo shared the title with San Diego State's John Lepak. They could not have a playoff for the title because the Bears had to board an early flight and SDSU finished their rounds later than expected.

Tomasulo, who happened to win the title on his 21st birthday, went to Las Vegas with sophomore Jeff Hood and other friends to celebrate with a night of low-stakes fun at Mandalay Bay.

Mostly, though, Tomasulo acts as a steadying influence.

"He's providing the type of leadership that any coach would want, both on the course and in the classroom," says coach Steve Desimone.

With all of the accomplishments in his five semesters of golf at Cal, it's hard to believe that Tomasulo considered himself a better soccer player than golfer until the end of high school.

A four-year starter in midfield for Long Beach Poly High School Tomasulo earned All-League honors his senior year while his team captured its CIF section.

He didn't pick up a golf club until he was seven years old, and he didn't start taking his golf seriously until he was 14.

"My dad and I used to go to the driving range or play a couple of holes when I was younger," says Tomasulo.

In his first two years on Poly's golf squad, Tomasulo posted respectable scores, but his breakthrough was yet to come.

He shot one round that opened the flood gates for under-par scores, a common experience among serious junior golfers.

"I broke par the summer before my junior year," Tomasulo says. "My scoring average was around par for the rest of high school."

Tomasulo's plummetting scoring average made him realize that his athletic future would be in golf.

"I had a better time competing on the golf course," Tomasulo says. "I felt I could get better at golf than I could at soccer."

Perhaps fate was on Tomasulo's side. The summer before his senior year of high school, he competed in the Long Beach City Championship.

On the last day of the tournament, Tomasulo was paired with Han Lee, who was about to enter his senior year for the Bears. The duo staged a tremendous battle that required extra holes.

Even though Tomasulo lost, Lee was impressed enough with the high schooler's play to tell Desimone.

As the cliché goes, the rest was history. Tomasulo's only choice for collegiate golf was Cal, the school from which both of his older brothers graduated.

"Because of soccer, I thought that he had to have some real physical ability and he had to be tough as nails," says Desimone.

Before Tomasulo could display his competitive talent for the Bears, Desimone decided to redshirt the Long Beach native for his freshman year because of the large amount of talent already on the team.

"Even though his game was still fairly raw, he had a huge upside," says Desimone.

Tomasulo showed off that potential in his redshirt year. He posted solid scores both semesters, and his spring scoring average would have been good enough to be among the top five golfers for the Bears.

As a freshman, he earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 and broke the school's single-season scoring average record with a 73.19 clip.

Tomasulo set an even higher standard in his second season. He broke his own scoring record by almost a full shot, averaging 72.25 strokes per round. He also made the Pac-10 first team.

Tomasulo, the No. 38 player according to Golfweek, is on pace to shatter his scoring average record for the second straight year. In 15 rounds this fall, he has broken par 12 times on his way to a PGA-esque 70.33 stroke average.

"I've just been able to play solid down the stretch," says Tomasulo. "Winning for the first time gave me more confidence."

In captaining the No. 31 Cal men's team, Tomasulo has led by example while instilling a relaxed team attitude off the course.

"He's very straightforward," says freshman Michael Wilson. "I really look up to him myself."

Wilson, who is the only other Bear besides Tomasulo to lead the team in a tournament this season, likes the captain's approach.

"He makes his point by the scores he puts up," says Wilson. "If he's playing a good round we know we have to pitch in."

Tomasulo does not describe himself as a vocal leader, but his coach doesn't think that's a problem.

"His temperament and personality are both what you're looking for in a leader," says Desimone. "When you look at the chemistry of this team, it all fits very well."

The result is a team that has performed solidly on the course and has a good time off it.

"We have a lot of fun on trips," says Tomasulo.

One of the antics from the team's last excursion saw Wilson win a dollar in return for drinking shots of butter.

The freshman knows how to take his lumps, though.

"I just get picked on a lot," says Wilson.

Tomasulo's success as captain is a welcome sight to Desimone, since Cal is without a four-year starter this season.

Despite the lack of experience, the Bears have not finished worse than seventh in five fall tournaments, most of which have featured fields with many of the top-ranked teams in the country.

Among the players Tomasulo beat at the Barona Collegiate Cup were No. 1 Nick Watney of Fresno State, No. 19 Michael Letzig of New Mexico, and No. 22 Zach Doran of Ohio State.

Tomasulo is no slouch in the classroom, working on a 3.44 grade-point average in legal studies.

Though professional golf is his main career goal, Tomasulo would also consider a career in golf course management or law.

"Turning pro depends on where college golf takes me," says Tomasulo.

The challenge of climbing the professional golf ranks entices Tomasulo, who is aware of the long, winding road necessary to make it to the PGA Tour.

"Playing golf is my focus," says Tomasulo. "It's what I want to do."

Lee, who played a role in attracting Tomasulo to Cal, is on that road right now. He has conditional status on the Buy.com tour and is in 188th place on the money list.

Only the top 15 players on the Buy.com circuit make it to the PGA Tour.

Tomasulo says he is trying not to look that far ahead. Even though no official practices can be held until the season resumes in February, he and his teammates continue to work on their games individually and gear up for a run at the Pac-10 title.

"We're closing in on the top 25 and a large part of it is due to him," says Desimone.


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