With drives that measure consistently in the 320-yard range, Valencia's Nick Delio has length off the tee that would make many PGA Tour player jealous. So it shouldn't have been much of a surprise when the 18-year-old Cal State Northridge rising sophomore took home the title at the 97th annual California Amateur Championship (video). Still, for a relative newcomer to the state's amateur golf scene, and one that was originally an alternate, to win an event with such a highly-regarded field was a bit of a shock to some.
But not to the winner.
"I'm not completely shocked that I won, it was a pleasant surprise, and I was thankful I even got the chance to play," said Delio. "It's pretty awesome that I'll have my name on the trophy, but I'm not going to rest on my laurels. I'm going to try to achieve bigger and better things, but that was definitely the highlight of my career."
Count Northridge golf coach Jim Bracken among those unsurprised after the Big West freshman of the year defeated Austin Roberts 7 & 5 in the State Am finale.
“This was his normal game,” Bracken told the SCGA's Bob Thomas. “He’s got a great work ethic and he’s a great student (3.3 grade point average).”
Bracken has seen a few great golfers in his time at Northridge, including former PGA Tour player Bob Burns a pair of past California Amateur champions in Jeff Sanday (1995) and Tim Hogarth (1999).
“Nick has a chance to be on top of that list if he continues to improve,” said Bracken. “And I think he’s got a great chance to do so.”
Delio was quick to point out that that day was still a long ways off.
"As of right now I'm not the best, just try to get better each and every year, and hopefully that will come true," he said.
At the State Am, which was held at the Lakeside Golf Club, the most startling difference between Delio and the 15-year-old Roberts was the 50-60 yards driving advantage he seemed to have on every hole. Like many in the new era of golfers who grew up watching Tiger, Delio has been no stranger to the weight room in trying to gain a competitive advantage.
"I try to prepare myself physically and mentally, I train really hard for every tournament and to compete against the very, very best means hitting the gym as hard as you can," said Delio, who says he hits the weights on a two-days-on, one-day-off cycle, while hitting balls for 45-60 minutes per day and playing 18 holes 4-5 times per week. "I do resistance, cardio, free weights, but it has to be equal gym and course management. You can't just work out and not play any golf."
Looking down the road, Delio says although it's come along in recent years, he needs to improve his putting game in order to compete at the professional level as he hopes to in 3-4 years. In the nearer future, however, Delio will attempt to become the first since Johnny Dawson in 1942 to win both the California and Southern California Amateur in the same year when he tees it up at Saticoy Country Club in Somis July 18-20.
From there he will head to Michigan to try to qualify on July 28th for the 106th Western Amateur, held July 30-August 3. The month gets even busier as the Delio will cash in his invitation to the Pacific Coast Amateur, held in British Columbia this year, August 5-8.