Sand Valley caddie and former Marquette star have epic battle at State Open

sand valley caddie and former marquette star have epic battle at state open

Kaylor Steger tees off on the 11th hole in the second round of the 102nd Wisconsin State Open Championship on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, at Ozaukee Country Club in Mequon, Wisconsin.

MEQUON – Daniel Mazziotta arrived in Wisconsin last summer looking to find his way in golf again.

The 33-year-old native of Fort Myers, Florida, fell in love with the state and its cornucopia of great courses. It appears that the change of scenery has also breathed new life into his game.

Mazziotta, who caddies at Sand Valley Golf Resort in the Town of Rome, won the 102nd Wisconsin State Open Championship on Wednesday by edging Hunter Eichhorn in an epic playoff at Ozaukee Country Club.

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After playing two rounds already on the day, Mazziotta and Eichhorn battled for three extra holes and it wasn’t settled until Eichhorn lipped out a putt from about seven feet with daylight rapidly disappearing a little past 8 p.m.

Mazziotta had to be back at Sand Valley to caddie early Thursday afternoon, so the buzz of victory helped make the two-plus hour drive back a little easier.

“It feels good,” Mazziotta said. “I was talking to my mom at the beginning of the week and four days before the tournament I couldn’t even really make a full swing.

“Just from caddying. It wasn’t from an injury or anything. Just from being stiff. But I told her, when my body feels good I’m playing just as good as I was when I was playing on Tour. And I was like this golf course is perfect for me. It didn’t go as I planned. I didn’t have my best stuff. It was kind of grinding. I had to grind it out of the dirt.”

That $12,000 winner’s check is nice, too.

“That’s a whole month of looping,” Mazziotta said. “I’ve been flush and I’ve been broke. I’ve probably been broke more than I’ve been flush. I wouldn’t call this flush but it gives me options. I’m trying to make my push back to playing full-time.

“I probably am still going to have to wait a year for that to get everything in place. But this will help my confidence knowing I can do it and I’ll be able to put it into my savings, my golf account for when I do it full-time.”

Mazziotta turned professional in 2011 after finishing at Florida Golf Coast University. He played on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica and the Korn Ferry tours, but found himself in need of a reset.

Then came a fateful meeting in Fort Myers with former Arrowhead High School and University of Wisconsin golfer Charlie Delsman.

“At the time, after I had lost my status on the Korn Ferry Tour, I was working for a friend kind of away from golf and playing very little golf,” Mazziotta said. “And I ran into him and I knew he used to caddie at Erin (Hills) and I was just asking.

“He was like I’m at this new place, Sand Valley. We play a ton and we work a ton and he was telling me about it. And I immediately called back home and told (wife) Ash like, hey, I think I’m going to Wisconsin for the summer.”

He got invited back this summer. The caddying gets him a lot of experience on a top-flight golf course.

“Body’s tough, it’s a grind on the body,” Mazziotta said. “But I’m still on the golf course every day. And I’m playing golf most days where I was playing once or twice a month before that.”

It also gives him chances to explore golf courses around the state. He qualified for this year’s State Open after finishing in the top 40 last year at Blackwolf Run in Kohler.

“I don’t think there’s any better place in the United States to work on your game in the summertime,” Mazziotta said. “For the price and for the quality of golf. And the people. Everyone’s friendly. I love it up here.”

Mazziotta admitted to missing his share of shots on Wednesday, but managed to finish with a 5-under 65 in the third round and a 72 in the fourth for a 275 total.

Eichhorn, the Big East golfer of the year who wrapped up his Marquette career in the spring, turned pro this summer and looked like he was going to cruise to victory after the third round in which he became the second golfer after Jim Schuman to fire a 62 in the event.

But the fourth round proved to be much more difficult with a 75.

“It’s just like anything else,” Eichhorn said. “We used to grind a lot in college and to compete against a guy like that is obviously something a little different. He’s been around and done some of this stuff.

“But I have plenty of experience in tournaments like this. Yeah, it’s disappointing to come up short. But I just got a few things to clean up.”

Eichhorn learned the game playing on a nine-hole course in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so he didn’t want to blame the encroaching darkness for the missed putt that sealed Mazziotta’s victory.

“We play golf like this all the time back home,” Eichhorn said. “I hit a good putt, but just a tough little lip-out. But that’s golf and that happens.”

Eichhorn will compete in Qualifying School for the Korn Ferry Tour in Mobile, Alabama, beginning his professional career in earnest. It is a journey that Mazziotta knows well and will likely include ups, downs, frustrations and exhaustion.

Just like their 39-hole duel on Wednesday.

sand valley caddie and former marquette star have epic battle at state open

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Sand Valley caddie and former Marquette star have epic battle at State Open

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