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Mooney, Badger golfers earn invites to tourney in Scotland



Mooney, Badger golfers earn invites to tourney in Scotland

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Badger’s Austin Mariani stands at one of the Scotland Junior Golf Invitational tournament golf courses on June 29 in Scotland.

Austin Mariani had never even left the country before. So when he was invited to be one of two dozen Americans to participate in the Scotland Junior Golf Invitational, it wasn’t a certainty the Hartford Township native would — or even could — take the trip across the pond.

“We got the invitation in the winter time, and we thought about it for a while, for like a month, I would say,” Mariani said.

Mariani and his family could not afford to send the 17-year-old Badger golfer more than 3,000 miles away for a golf tournament. So Mariani’s mother, Lisa, turned to their community for help. The response was overwhelming.

Nearly two months before the tournament was set to begin, dozens of individuals helped the Marianis reach their GoFundMe goal of $5,400, guaranteeing that Austin would be able to experience something he had never had before.

“That meant a lot,” Austin said. “That really meant the world to me because a lot of people that I barely knew were willing to give some money to help out. I thought that was really special.”

Mark Mariani, Badger’s head golf coach and Austin’s father, knew they could not turn down the opportunity.

“It was basically something that we couldn’t really say no to,” Mark said. “If we would have said no to it, I would have regretted it. Pretty much every time I thought about it, I would regret it … I just didn’t want to say no to it, because it’s basically a chance of a lifetime to go over there with him.”

It turns out it was money well spent.

Austin, despite a long day of travel, the notoriously unforgiving Scottish winds and having never played in a match-play format, rebounded from a poor start and emerged this past week as the winner of the ‘A’ flight, one of the tournament’s three groups.

“The first day, I think it was about 40 mph winds, and it was just really rough to hit the golf ball where I wanted to because of the winds,” Austin said. “And it was pretty cold; it was like 50 degrees when I’ve just been playing 90-degree golf for the past couple of weeks before that. So it was definitely a big change. I think after the first couple of rounds, I just adjusted pretty well to it and I started to play some good golf.”

Before leaving the country, Austin said he worked with his swing coach Buster Thomas on keeping the ball lower in the air in an attempt to prepare for the windy conditions.

Mark said that he thought playing against stiff competition and on courses as difficult as the ones they faced in Scotland would be of service to Austin in the future.

“I thought that it would be a great experience to learn to deal with high winds and learn to deal with situations that call for a bump and run, basically,” Mark said.

The weather, unfamiliar courses and match-play format didn’t affect Austin much at all — on the outside anyway.

“I was intimidated, for sure,” Austin said. “But I just had a positive mindset going in … and just was looking forward to playing a different style of golf.”

The difficulty of the style, which Mark said calls for more “imagination” and “creativity” due to the winds, firm greens and large aprons, was compounded by the fact that Austin was also a newcomer to match play, which pits individuals directly against each other.

Fortunately, Austin is apparently a natural in match play.

“I think that I’m just a really competitive person,” he said. “I have a really competitive mindset … and I think that I play better in a match play than normal golf. I thought it brought out my competitive spirit to play (directly) against someone in golf.”

In addition to Austin, another local golfer competed in Scotland: former Division III state champion and YSU commit Rocco Turner, a recent graduate of Cardinal Mooney.

“I’ve never really had the chance to talk to Rocco because I’ve never played with him,” Austin said. “He’s a really nice kid, and it was really cool because I knew who he was — he’s a state champion. And I’ve always known he was a great golfer, and it was really cool to talk to him and get to know him.”

Over the more than week-long trip, Turner and the Marianis got the chance to play on some of the most well-known golf courses in the world as the group visited St. Andrews and Carnoustie.

“It was just a really great experience,” Austin said. “I knew the history of St. Andrews and Carnoustie, and I was just really grateful the whole time. So it was just amazing that I could be able to witness the course and just be part of golf’s history.”

Austin, who will be a senior at Badger this fall, plans to major in engineering and play golf in college.

Have an interesting story? Contact Preston Byers by email at Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @PresByers.

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