Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Trailing the leaders by eight shots with only 12 holes to play at the first golf tournament of the season in Savannah, Georgia, senior Peter Gasperini thought he could work his way at the top. He just had to string a few birdies together to pull within reach.
Gasperini looked at coach Matt Ball and said something the 20-year veteran wasn’t expecting.
“He says, ‘If I can get on around making four or five birdies in a row, I can still get in this thing,’” Ball said. “And most people would never even think about it. He’s thinking about trying to figure out how you can win individually and just move forward.”
Gasperini didn’t end up with the leaders that weekend, but Ball called the optimistic attitude he showed “very rare” and “elite.”
The South Boston, Virginia, native’s positive approach has helped the team just as much as his play on the course, Ball said.
“He’s stepped up and helped us a whole lot,” Ball said. “Both his scores and … with his attitude, like the kid absolutely has a winning attitude.”
The positivity that Gasperini plays with is something he calls his biggest strength on the golf course, but he carries it off the course too.
“It’s just in life in general, if you go into anything with a negative attitude or you get down on yourself, you have no chance whatsoever,” Gasperini said. “I think it plays a huge role in the game of golf and over the course of my career it’s served me well.”
Gasperini transferred to VCU from Radford, where he started as a walk-on and worked his way into being the Highlanders’ top player, Ball said.
Gasperini carded a top-10 finish in four of Radford’s six tournaments during the 2019 season. He was named to the Big South All-Conference team in 2019 and earned Player of the Week awards twice that season.
This season, Gasperini has achieved one top-10 finish with the black and gold — second place at the Southern Invitational in Lake Worth, Florida, on March 1 and March 2. He’s struggled in the last couple of tournaments for the Rams, finishing outside of the top 35 both times.
“He’s been spectacular and in the hunt and has a chance to win, when the putter is not hot, that brings him down a little bit,” Ball said. “But even on his bad days, he’s thinking he’s going to get better as the round continues.”
Gasperini called the last couple of tournaments “a learning curve.”
“I feel like honestly, I am underperforming,” Gasperini said. “I’ve also played below my standards in a few events. Instead of getting frustrated, I’ve kind of taken a step back and tried to learn from each event that I would consider is then not a great event, like almost a failure, but not a failure.”
Junior Clifford Foster, who’s also on the golf team, has been friends with Gasperini over the past five years, he said. The two met at a golf tournament and kept seeing each other at various tournaments, building a bond.
“When he decided to come to VCU, our friendship strengthened,” Foster said. “He’s super easy to get along with and he gets along with everyone. I think that’s just as a huge part of being a positive person, just being able to get along with everyone.”
The two are roommates in Richmond, and Foster said the positive mindset that Gasperini plays with is also visible in his everyday routines.
“Living with him for the past eight or so months, now nine months — I see it every day,” Foster said. “In the morning, he’s upbeat, throughout the day is upbeat, even though he can get down here and there.”
Gasperini’s leadership is built on positivity, Foster said.
“He has always had a positive effect on everyone’s attitude,” Foster said. “He leads from afar, but it’s definitely a loud voice even though he’s a quiet person.”
VCU’s golf team will play at the Old Corkscrew Intercollegiate tournament in Estero, Florida from April 12-13.