Chaussard to lead golf team

By Jon Gluskin

From the time Garrett Chaussard could stand up on his own, he had a golf club in his hand. He started playing golf when he was 4. He started playing tournaments when he was 6. Chaussard is now 21 and all of his practice during his childhood is paying dividends for the Illinois men’s golf team.

The senior is coming off a first-place finish at the Northern Intercollegiate two weeks ago. It was his first win of his college career.

Chaussard is now a team leader, and not just for the low scores he has put up, but also for how he conducts himself.

“Everybody kind of looks to you a little bit,” Chaussard said. “I think I’ve always kind of been trying to set by example. I don’t think the way I do things has changed, just the fact that people take more notice because I’m an older person now.

“Obviously I’ve gotten better at doing things and going through everything for three years now; I kind of know what to expect and have learned how to practice, what to practice. I kind of help spread that to the team. I don’t take a real vocal approach to it. I just go by example and hint things out here and there and talk to everybody and just keep it nice and relaxed,” he said.

Illinois head coach Mike Small has seen Chaussard affect the team in similar ways.

“I think Garrett leads by example which is what we want,” Small said. “He’s done a good job with that.”

Chaussard, from Millbrae, Calif., was born on June 27, 1983. There’s one main reason the California boy ended up in the Midwest.

“The biggest reason is because of Coach (Small),” Chaussard said. “Being somebody who’s played professional golf – and that’s where I want to go – there’s no better person to learn from than him.”

Since coming to Illinois, Chaussard said Small has influenced him in indescribable ways.

“Just to think of all the little things (Small) told me throughout the three years, it’s been incredible how much more I know now than when I got in here,” Chaussard said. “And hopefully, I know the rest of this year I’ll keep learning and doing everything. It’s been great so far and, hopefully, I can just ride it on out.”

Small said he’s had a positive relationship with his player as well.

“I think there’s always been a lot of mutual respect between me and Garrett,” Small said. “I think Garrett knows that I’m concerned with his game and becoming a better player, and he has reciprocated by working hard on his game.”

Over the past three seasons, Chaussard said he has seen his game grow and adapt in many ways.

“I think the biggest thing has got to be something that I didn’t realize until last year – the level of concentration, the level of intensity that you need to have every time you play, on every shot, on everything that you do, even while you’re practicing – the level of concentration that you need to put forth in everything to be successful and to really help yourself get better,” he said. “If you’re just out there going through motions, you’re not really letting what you know sink in. I think that’s the biggest part of this growing.”

Along with this, Chaussard said he has talked to Small about using his experience of the past three years and numerous tournaments and applying it to his game today.

Small believes there have been other areas in which Chaussard has grown.

“I think he’s matured emotionally and mentally,” Small said. “He plays more within himself.”

Chaussard said, for the rest of the season, he would like to see his team continually learn and improve and win some tournaments, which is always the team’s priority. As far as personal goals, he wants to continue playing like he’s been playing, giving himself more opportunities to be successful and coming out on top in more tournaments.

Chaussard is planning on graduating with a finance degree. If all goes as planned, however, he won’t have to use the degree in getting a career.

“I’m planning on graduating this spring and it kind of depends on how I’m playing at that point, what step, what direction or how high I want to attempt to start,” Chaussard said. “I’m planning on, at the end of next spring, to turn professional.”

What if the professionals don’t work out for Chaussard? He said he’s not worrying about that right now.

“You know, it’s funny; I guess that’s the reason you go to a good school as well,” Chaussard said. “I have the finance degree to fall back on, should I need it. I think I’m just kind of planning on crossing that bridge when I get to it. There’s a good chance it will have something to do with golf just because I’ve been around it; it’s what I know and I know a lot of people within it.