by Alan Hieber
Note: The Raiders will host the Wright State Invitational Monday and Tuesday this week at the Miami Valley Golf Club.
With Wright State's season in full swing, junior Raider golfer Chris Rossi has progressively been making a name for himself.
Out of high school at Fairfield, Rossi wasn't heavily recruited and elected to spend his freshman golf campaign at Miami Hamilton. Following his debut season, WSU expressed interest in adding him to the roster, which cemented his decision to transfer.
“I didn't know I was going to play here until I was in college,” Rossi said. “Once I found out they would love to have me I was pumped.”
“I think he (Rossi) plays with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and I like that a lot,” WSU assistant coach Brian Arlinghaus said.
During his time on the course with the Raiders, Rossi's top finishes have been 7th and 11th respectively in his first two seasons. Through March 23 he was rated tenth in Horizon League scoring average.
Over the summer, Rossi was victorious by seven strokes at the Middletown City Championship held at the Weatherwax Golf Course where he used to work.
“I got a lot of congratulatory messages,” Rossi said. “It was the first big tournament that I ever won and a nice feeling having people coming up and asking how it feels.”
When Arlinghaus reflected on the strengths in Rossi's golf game, he mentioned his blue-collar work ethic along with several other qualities.
“Chris is such an intense competitor. What he possesses is pure athletic ability, competitive drive and a relentless heart,” Arlinghaus said. “He's not going to stand up and give a rousing speech before we play, but actions truly speak louder than words.”
The mental toughness required to play golf at a high level has been documented abundantly. Rossi and his teammates have been seeing a sports psychologist since the fall to stay on par with this aspect of the game.
“Personally, I know that I've gotten stronger mentally while I'm out there playing,” Rossi said. “You have to be mentally strong in golf because there is a lot of time between shots.”
Arlinghaus has a master's degree in sports and exercise psychology, which Rossi believes helps with the mental side of golf as well. He also pointed out how his assistant coach along with head coach Pete Samborsky can improve his performance on par-threes.
“Usually on par threes, they will stand on the tee and give a good yardage to hit to,” Rossi said. “They are so helpful when you get there because a lot of times you're playing by yourself and don't know how hard the wind is blowing.”
If he is struggling in the middle of his round, Rossi says he can turn to his parents who have attended most of his tournaments for moral support.
“My biggest motivation is playing for my mom and dad,” Rossi said. “Even if I'm not playing well they're always there for me. When I think about that it calms me down.”
Rossi feels that his teammates bond well and that lengthy trips in the team van on the way to tournaments demonstrates this best.
“We always have long van rides that are 6 to 8 hours," Rossi said. “I think the conversations and bonds created on those van rides are hard to describe. You can tell that we really care about each other.”
At the Bobby Nichols Invitational hosted by Tennessee Tech last month the golf balls were not the only things that were flying. Rossi recalled go-karting with his teammates on a track that can reach speeds of 40 mph.
“That tournament is probably my favorite for that reason,” Rossi said.
The red numbers on Rossi's college papers are high, which his 3.48 GPA illustrates. The sports science major aspires to be an athletic director at a high school or university if a pro golf career doesn't pan out. He stressed the importance of staying balanced with academics and athletics.
“That is no doubt the hardest part of being a student-athlete,” Rossi said. “You have to work so hard to finish your schoolwork in between tournaments and practices. It will creep into your mind if you're not caught up on everything.”
Last season WSU golfer Ryan Wenzler represented the Raiders at the NCAA regionals following his win at the Horizon League tournament. Rossi made it clear that the ultimate goal for his team this year is to match that feat, which would be the first time since 2004.
“We try not to put too much emphasis on it because we don't want to put pressure on everybody,” Rossi said. “Everybody knows that is the only tournament that really matters. I think we all want to have that satisfaction of getting a team championship.”
Rossi has been “running through the tape” with his consistency in tournaments as Arlinghaus put it. He feels his golfer is poised to potentially have a top five scoring average in the league and even win a tournament.
Whatever is next for Rossi, he is clearly someone on the rise for the Raiders.
“He's (Rossi) the kind of player that I want wearing the Wright State golf uniform,” Arlinghaus said. “I know he is representing the school, the athletic department, and our program in the best possible way.”