Mere moments after helping Dallas win the Tryba Preseason Tournament in August, Mason Gattuso turned to his already emotional coach Jane Kilduff and reminded her he was the last golfer to be coached by Dallas’ legendary coach Tom Kilduff.
Tom Kilduff, Jane’s father, passed away in 2015. But Gattuso wanted to live up to expectations the legendary coach would have wanted.
“He gets the value of golf, dedication and commitment of people to commit their life to it especially my father,” Kilduff said. “It’s an honor to have one of your players say that. And my family was touched by that too. But we can’t comprehend what he’s contemplating in that role.”
Gattuso, a Dallas junior, was coming off a third-place finish at the tournament, and then went into a little funk. But when he broke out, it happened in a big way as he claimed the Times Leader Golfer of the Year honors.
Everything clicked for Gattuso at the end of the season as he claimed Dallas’ first District 2 individual title in at least the last 25 years and is believed to be the first ever in school history.
“My putter started to heat up at the end of the year, that’s what propelled me,” Gattuso said. “It was probably the team district when my putter started to excel and that’s what gave me my confidence in the postseason.”
Gattuso shot the low score of the day at the District 2 Class 3A Team Championship match against Wallenpaupack at Elmhust Country Club. Then just a few days later, he went out and shot a similar score on the same course to claim the individual title.
Kilduff said it was a combination of things that got Gattuso back on track, including worrying about his own play instead of chasing after other golfers in the field.
“A lot of things came together at the end. And it came together with advice from everyone and it made sense and it clicked for him,” Kilduff said. “Just encouraging him to be himself. And show what he can do or he’ll have to wait till next season. And he got it together.”
Even though, he’s just a junior, he’s the last golfer to remain on the team that Tom Kilduff coached prior to his death. Jane Kilduff took over for the 2015 season, then led the Mountaineers to one of the best seasons in school history in 2016 thanks to Gattuso’s play and leadership as captain for a young team.
“He really worked hard at connecting the team and making sure they held strong,” Kilduff said. “So that was a major force for the team.”
Next comes the biggest challenge for any athlete once a season concludes, continuing the success into the next season.
Gattuso plays in many junior tournaments during the offseason, and not only in the summer months. He also plays in tournaments out of state during winter months.
“I will carry it on by just making sure I work hard and by focusing on wedge work and narrow in on the flag and work on my putting to make sure I don’t leave any strokes on the field,” he said. “But it’s way easier said than done.”
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