First-year head coach Matt Thurmond recently named Jared du Toit the captain of a young and inexperienced Arizona State men’s golf team.
du Toit transferred to the program following two standout years at Idaho. In his junior season at ASU, du Toit played with three seniors – Jon Rahm, Alberto Sanchez and Max Rottluff. du Toit says they taught him what it means to be a ‘true leader.’
A former hockey player from Kimberley, British Columbia, he faces a different challenge in his senior season: assuming the title as the Sun Devils’ No. 1 player.
"I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in today without the leadership that had been established before I was here," du Toit said. "Alberto [Sanchez], Max [Rottluff], and Jon [Rahm] were all super influential in helping me become the player I am right now, but even more so the leader that I’ve become over the last year."
du Toit is no stranger to coaching changes throughout his college tenure. He was coached by David Nuhn at Idaho for two years before transferring. One of the key reasons that du Toit chose ASU was because of head coach Tim Mickelson, but Mickelson left the program after the 2015 season to become Rahm’s agent and to follow his professional career.
Thurmond doesn’t want du Toit to feel any added pressure due to his new role.
"Everybody wants to be the No. 1 in the World Series," said Thurmond. "But it’s asking a lot of Jared, and certainly it's asking a lot for him to be like Jon Rahm. We have an entire team backing him up. He shouldn’t be thinking about carrying anything."
du Toit says he’s not the only leader on the team, and that the presence of Rahm, Sanchez, and Rottluff’s competitive nature has shown him how to push the current freshmen.
"It almost felt like there were three more coaches watching over you, that you were always competing against," du Toit said. "I wanted to up my game because they would see my final score. I want it to feel the same way this year."
du Toit says this starts with him as the captain of the team, but like last year, there’s three seniors who he believes have stepped up to be those much needed veterans.
"Obviously, coach believes in me and my abilities naming me captain, but I think Ki Taek [Lee] and Nicolo [Galletti] have both stepped up," said du Toit. "I mean, it’s funny to think about because such a short amount of time has passed, but it is a little similar to last year when we had those guys. I just hope we can have some of the same successes."
Thurmond has made it clear that the Sun Devils need those veteran voices who have been with the program as half of the team is made up of newcomers - four freshmen and a junior transfer from South Mountain Community College.
He says the overhaul of the coaching staff plays into the need of a leader stepping up, and he says he’s already seen it.
"Most of us are kind of starting together, from the coaching staff to a lot of the players, so it’s really nice to have a couple of key guys getting their voices in their early," Thurmond said. "It starts with Jared; I mean I wouldn’t have made him captain if he didn’t show the veteran qualities he did."
du Toit’s play and temperament have helped him gain the trust of some of his most important teammates.
"He’s our captain, we know what he’s capable of; but that doesn’t mean he’s invincible," said senior Nicolo Galletti. "He’s similar to John in that he has a swagger, a bit of a confidence that is unique. It makes me know he’ll bounce back."
That was exactly the case after du Toit shot his highest round as a Sun Devil, an 81 (+9), in the first round of the season at the Fighting Illini Invitational. He responded with two rounds of 71, -1 and the Sun Devils finished tied for 11th at 11-over.
du Toit finished the Illini tied for 48th, his highest finish as a Sun Devil, but his resume speaks for itself. He won the 2015 British Columbia Amateur Title and in his first season for the Sun Devils he posted top-10 finishes at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational, the Amer Air Invitational, the Prestige at PGA West and the Lamkin Grips.
He is now looking to gain recognition on the professional circuit to add to his resume. This summer, he competed in his first PGA tour event, finishing ninth at the RBC Canadian Open, out performing some of the top players in the world.
More recently, du Toit represented his home country in the World Amateur Team Championships in Cancun, Mexico, where Canada finished in a tie for ninth place in the 71-nation competition for the Eisenhower Trophy.
Galletti says the senior’s willingness to add to his already impressive resume is another reason the team looks up to him.
"All the freshmen that have come in want to be in his position in a couple years, kind of like how guys wanted to be in Jon’s position a couple years ago," Galletti said. "Those guys listen and take what Jared had to say differently after he got back from Cancun."
du Toit knows that adding more to his plate is hard, but that it’s also worth it.
"These events can take a lot out of you with the extra travel during the college season," said du Toit. "It’s tough at times, but then you remember that these are incredible events and opportunities."