The Crimson White

Frankie Capan shows maturity in first year

James Ogletree, Sports Editor

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On the first hole of Frankie Capan’s career last Friday, Alabama men’s golf coach, Jay Seawell, asked Capan if he preferred a lot of conversation during the round or a more quiet approach. Capan, never much of a thinker on the course, said he wasn’t sure. Then he pured a 3-iron right down the middle.

“I kind of do my thing,” Capan said. “I enjoy hanging out and talking with my playing partners, but I feel like I’m pretty chill on the course, never too high or too low. I’ve found that you save a lot of energy when you stay flat-lined.”

That equanimity was exactly what attracted Seawell and assistant coach Jon Howell to Capan in the first place.

Nearly three years ago, Ben Fuller, current UA sophomore, played with Capan in a junior event. Impressed with his abilities and demeanor, he texted Seawell to recommend Capan as a potential recruit.

Howell traveled to Puerto Rico in March 2016 to get a first look at the then 16 year old, who was playing in his first PGA Tour event by virtue of winning a junior tournament. The coach returned to the United States with a glowing evaluation of Capan, who missed the tournament’s halfway cut by one stroke and beat several PGA Tour winners.

“[Howell said] we need to continue to recruit him,” Seawell said. “He’s really good. He just has a way about playing golf that we like. … [We were impressed by] how he handled the pressure of playing in a PGA Tour event.”

Capan had won the coaches over, and within eight months they had won him over, too. He committed to Alabama over Twitter in November 2016.

A year later, he made his official visit to Tuscaloosa, basked in the electric atmosphere of a nighttime Alabama-LSU game, and putted with Alabama alumnus Justin Thomas, the 2017 PGA Tour Player of the Year whom Capan calls “Mr. Thomas,” even though Thomas is only 25.

He also spent the night with some of his future teammates and played a round at Ol’ Colony Golf Complex with them the next day.

“A lot of the time, junior golfers make a lot of impulse decisions and don’t think stuff through very well,” junior Josh Sedeno said. “He looked like he had a very mature game above his years.”

Sedeno said Capan’s calm, just-step-up-and-hit-it attitude reminded him of major champions Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked players in the world, renowned for their placidity.

Koepka and Johnson have also pioneered a movement of young players who place great emphasis on making their bodies both as well-built and supple as possible. Capan resembles them in that regard.

“He’s probably 6-foot, but he’s like 190 with zero percent body fat,” Sedeno said. “He’s ripped.”

Capan, however, has a deeper reason. As a stocky high-school freshman with a weak core, he broke his back, which started his obsession with working out, hoping to prevent something like that from happening again.

During the summer before his senior year of high school, he also discovered he had impinged hips, which meant his hip wasn’t sitting in its socket correctly, and a tendon was snapping across the bone.

After kicking field goals at a spring football practice, he could not lift his leg the next day. During a prestigious, nine-day amateur tournament the following week – which he and his partner went on to win – his hip popped loudly enough for surrounding spectators to hear.

He didn’t play competitive golf from July 2017 to February 2018 while he figured out the issue, but he returned from the layoff with a strengthened commitment to fitness, mobility and a strong core.

“I don’t really feel accomplished that day if I don’t run a mile or two or more,” Capan said. “I just started to fall in love with getting my body in the right spots.”

Capan’s athletic background – he grew up playing football, basketball and soccer – made him a more attractive prospect to Seawell because those sports taught him how to apply a team-first mentality to an individual sport such as golf.

“I enjoy the camaraderie, like building each other up and everyone setting their sights on one goal and working together to achieve that goal,” Capan said. “I would 100 percent rather my team win a tournament than myself win individually.”

For the team, that goal is to win the national championship. Seawell made that clear at the team’s first meeting of the season, as if the players needed a reminder.

A freshman stepping onto a team with experience at the highest level of collegiate golf might not be expected to make an impact right away. However, Capan earned a spot in the starting five for last weekend’s season opener and tied for eighth out of 81 players, including a six-under par 66 in the second round.

He will also start at this weekend’s Olympia Fields Fighting Illini Invitational, a half-hour outside Chicago.

“I’ve always had a quiet confidence about me,” Capan said. “I would like to be the SEC Freshman of the Year. And this is a pretty lofty goal, but I believe that if I play well, I could have the potential to be a First-Team All-American.”

 

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Frankie Capan shows maturity in first year