Kevin Witte should have been playing Division I golf and Phil Trujillo knew it.
Trujillo, the head men’s golf coach at the University of Colorado — Colorado Springs, had heard of Witte, a Desert Vista alum, from a scout while Witte was at Mesa Community College.
“I have a scout in Arizona and he and I were talking one day and he said, ‘Man, we should keep an eye on Kevin Witte. He’s going to in junior college, however, he should be playing Division I golf.’ He’s that good of a player,” Trujillo said.
“It took me a while before I finally got to watch him play, but when I did I knew there was something special there.”
Witte had some DI offers out of high school and he nearly went to Oregon State for golf before a coaching change took him off that path while he also considered Arizona.
But Witte, who finished eighth at the Division I state tournament his senior year for the Thunder, ended up at MCC where he played under head coach John Guerrero for two years before transferring to DII UC — Colorado Springs.
While at UC Colorado Springs, Witte earned all-American honors and finished tied for 14th at the DII national tournament to finish his season with a scoring average of 73.07.
Most recently won the Pikes Peak Amateur tournament on July 17 with a 4 and 3 victory in a 36-hole match play final.
“This is about the most fun I’ve had, I would say,” Witte told Colorado Spring Gazette about his win at the six-day event.
He now has his sights firmly set on taking his game to the next level by returning to Arizona after finishing his final summer class to earn his degree in business and communications.
That means entering his first local pro tournament on the Phoenix-based Gateway Tour with hopes of eventually finding sponsors.
“You don’t go straight up to the PGA Tour. You have to go through mini-tours, make a name and make some money so you can move up in the ranks,” Witte said. “I’ll be trying to play on the Gateway Tour, trying to find a sponsor and go that route.”
As Witte takes his new route, he has the skills to be able to make it, most notably to him in his short game.
“I’ve always been a pretty good putter. I think that’s the strongest part of my game,” said Witte, who shot a season-low of 6-under 66 at the Mustang Intercollegiate tournament in April. “Especially on tougher courses, that’s important.”
Trujillo agreed while adding for Witte, the biggest obstacle to making it as a pro won’t be in a lack of skill, but something else entirely.
“There are so many very good collegiate golfers out there that can play the game to a very high level,” Trujillo said. “One of the most important factors is money and when you have good financial support or good people that are sponsoring you and assisting you, that’s another key factor.
“I think that’s a part that Kevin is going to need. I think he’s going to need some help financially to allow him to go out and do what he can do and that’s play really good golf.”
Entrance fees, in particular, can be expensive. Witte said that while fees for amateur events are usually $150 to $300, entrance fees for professional tournaments can range into the thousands.
Gateway 72-hole events cost $1,345 for non-members and $1,095 for members just for the right to play in the event.
In order to afford his practice rounds, entrance fees and other expenses, Witte does what he can as he doesn’t have time for a full-time job.
In other words, success better come fast on the mini-tours or the debt is going to pile up fast without sponsor help.
“Just right now I’m caddying; don’t really have time for a full-time job because I’m still going to school, finishing up my degree,” Witte said.
It may be an expensive sport, but Witte is trying to make it in a profession he loves.
“It’s not easy, but it’s my passion,” he said, “and I hope to do that for a living so it’s what I have to do.”
• Eric Smith is a junior journalism major at Arizona State University. He is a summer intern at the AFN.