Growing up in Wayzata and playing high school hockey, Donald Constable can be described as a stereotypical Minnesotan. And after two years of playing collegiate golf for the Longhorns in the deep south of Texas, Minnesota’s native son has returned.
Constable, ranked by Golfweek as the No. 56 golfer in the country, has transferred back to his home state in time for the 2010 spring season in order to be closer to his family.
But the return has been somewhat bittersweet for Constable. He left the No. 5 team in the nation, while the Gophers have had their share of struggles this season and are ranked No. 98, according to Golfweek.
“It was hard leaving such a prestigious college like that … but up here, there are some great players and we compete at the same level they do,” Constable said. “I felt I had the same opportunities to get better.”
The junior said he made his decision just over halfway through the fall semester, and thanks to some connections with Texas Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds, was granted his release from the Longhorns, helping Constable avoid having to sit out a year as most transfers would.
In high school, Constable won two golf state championships : one as an individual and one as a member of the Minnetonka High School team.
Minnesota’s associate head coach Andrew Tank said Constable’s transfer came as a surprise for the coaching staff.
“Donald completely initiated this transfer,” Tank said. “Out of the blue this winter we found out he had been released and he was interested in joining the team, and we said, ‘We can find you a spot. We’d be happy to have you.’”
He admitted leaving Texas was a hard decision, but he feels more comfortable in Minnesota.
“I didn’t really want to leave my teammates down there right in the middle of the season,” Constable said. “I talked to some people up here who have a big influence on my life and my golf career, and I was told if I wanted to make the move, I should make it now instead of waiting it out.”
While the Gophers are not playing their best golf as of late, Constable hopes to provide a spark to the team, so they are playing their best when it really counts in May.
“I’m not worried about it,” Constable said. “It doesn’t matter if we go out and win every tournament and don’t make the nationals. We have a goal just like any other school, and that’s to play well at the end of the year.”
Being a newcomer to an already tight group of athletes may be difficult, but Constable said that knowing some of the players on the team — junior Cameron White played in the same high school conference —made the transition fairly smooth.
“I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes … and I didn’t want to make them feel like I was taking a spot,” Constable said. “I wanted to earn a spot.”
He proved deserving of a spot this past weekend when he led the team at the FAU Spring Break Invite by shooting a 2-over par 215 to land in a tie for 13th overall.
When Constable was being recruited, he knew his decision would come down to a southern school where he could practice year-round or a school where he could be close to his family. But there are some upsides to playing in the frozen tundra.
“I think it’s important to have a break over the winter,” Constable said. “I got a little tired down there, and it was to the point to when I came back over the summer, I didn’t want to play as much because we had been playing already for nine months.”
Another landscape change for Constable was the addition of the Thomas Lehman practice facility in 2007, which didn’t exist when he was being recruited.
Constable said he walked out on the facility for the first time recently and was instantly impressed. He added that Texas may have had more to offer at the time, but the new facilities at Minnesota are second to none.
A major player in Constable’s recruitment was director of golf Brad James, who announced he would resign at the end of the season to take a job with Golf Australia . The announcement came after Constable made his decision to return, but he said he would have come back anyway.
“If I was in his position, I would probably take the same job,” Constable said, adding that the coaching staff played a role in his decision to transfer.
Whoever is at the helm next year will have the services of one of the nation’s top collegiate golfers — that is, until he moves on to his dream of playing with the pros.
“College is a time when you can learn things and get better, and it’s kind of a building block to your next goal,” Constable said. “I don’t know when I’ll go through [qualifying school], but it’s kind of down the road, and I’m trying to play my best golf now.”
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