By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Shooting a season-low round showed the potential true freshman Matt Medeiros has to shine on the Sonoma State golf squad.
Already the Seawolves’ longest hitter, Medeiros recognizes the need to play consistently sharp. Major college golf is far more challenging than prep play as the former All-Empire standout from Petaluma High has learned.
“I don’t care if you are a freshman or a senior, I want you to come in and be competitive from day one,” said Sonoma State coach Val Verhunce. “Matt knows what we need.”
The move to the college game has mostly gone well for Medeiros. Comfortable with teammates after some rounds when visiting as a prospective player, now he enjoys the challenge that team practices provide to improve his shots.
“I just work harder,” Medeiros said. “Part of your game can fade in and out. I’m learning how to focus and play just one shot at a time.”
That he is playing at Sonoma State seemed Medeiros’ destiny.
Medeiros has been taking swing lessons from longtime Sonoma County teaching pro Verhunce since he was 8 years old.
Growing up on Petaluma’s courses, Medeiros long envisioned one day moving north to play at Sonoma State.
Several other colleges contacted Medeiros, with Sonoma State rival Chico State a potential choice. He liked the Seawolves players and the program’s history as an NCAA Division 2 national contender.
“I like that we want to go to nationals every year,” Medeiros said.
Medeiros can help Sonoma State compete at a high level, Verhunce said.
“He’s got a lot to learn. But, thankfully, he doesn’t play like a freshman,” Verhunce said.
Running and weight training helped Medeiros prepare for fall and the short stretch of match play that sets teams up for spring’s championship season. He played more difficult summer tournaments.
From the outset, Medeiros drove golf balls a country mile. He is better at keeping drives straighter and learning to control distances. Chipping and digging out of hazards are solid parts of his game. Putting has improved.
Yet all those skills are to be expected from a major college golfer. What gets a golfer onto a team’s top five — the group that travels to tournaments — is mental toughness.
“To become better college golfers, you need the short game, the mental game,” Verhunce said.
So far, Medeiros, 18, has the make-up to be among Sonoma State’s top five. Staying there demands a focus Medeiros is continuing to develop.
“You have to stay sharp. There’s a lot of talent on our team,” Medeiros said.
Teammates appreciate Medeiros’ talent. The fall season low round of 64 he shot at the Sonoma State Invitational showed how fine a game Medeiros can play.
The Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club course can be a challenging par 72 layout. On that day Medeiros was 8 shots better.
“It’s like everyone says, take one shot at a time,” he said. “Before that day, I didn’t quite grasp that concept.”
The challenge is to play well consistently.
“I know I can do it again. I just have to get all cylinders firing at the same time,” he said.
The better he plays, the better are Sonoma State’s chances of returning to the NCAA regional and even the nationals.
“Physically, we have all the talent to make it happen,” Medeiros said. “We’ve just got to not beat ourselves.”