Aug. 21, 2017
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
– It hardly comes as a surprise that Roberto Castro will soon be inducted into Georgia Tech’s Athletic Hall of Fame as golf is in his family’s blood, but you might be surprised if you knew that his blood runs especially hot.
Who might think that a quick temper would help someone play a game that requires temper management?
Maybe it goes to environment.
With an aunt, Jenny Lidback, who played 17 seasons the LPGA Tour, an uncle, Alex Lidback, who played for LSU, grandparents, Franca and Arne Lidback, who played for the national teams in Peru, and two younger brothers who played Division I college golf, this sport has long been Roberto’s game.
After his mother, Annie, took a skinny lad to the NCAA Championships in 2000 and he watched the Yellow Jackets fall to Oklahoma State in a playoff, Castro all but committed to one day play for Georgia Tech.
That eventually came to be good news for head coach Bruce Heppler, who recalls first laying eyes on a certain copper-haired youngster from Alpharetta playing at the Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio in 2001.
“Oh goodness; I remember when I first saw him. Here was this red-headed little kid at the U.S. Junior Amateur in San Antonio,” Heppler said. “He had a hot temper. That was OK. You’d rather teach someone to turn that down instead of to turn it up.”
Castro had “it,” while playing for the Jackets from 2003-07, earning All-America and All-ACC honors in each of four seasons and being tabbed co-winner of the 2007 Byron Nelson Award, given to the nation’s top senior golfer.
Ever confident, Roberto is nonetheless humbled to enter the Hall of Fame.
“I hadn’t really thought about myself going in. We’ve had a really good team for a long time, and some of my friends and other past players have recently gone in the Hall of Fame. Just being next in line of all the great golfers … is really cool. It is a big deal. Tech was a no brainer for me for so many reasons.
“My mom took me and my brother [to the 2000 NCAAs] and we watched Tech unfortunately lose in a playoff. It was a dream of mine to play golf at Georgia Tech, because they were one of the best programs in the country for 20 years.”
Castro was attracted to Tech’s golf program as both an athlete — the Jackets finished national runners-up three times in the 10 years (1993, 2000 and 2002) before he landed officially on The Flats in 2003 — and as a student.
Heppler figured that out in recruiting, not that he would have predicted four Academic All-ACC selections or three CoSIDA Academic All-America and GCAA All-America Scholar honors, including first-team status as a junior and a senior.
He also won the Bobby Dodd Scholarship for 2006-07, given to Tech’s top male and female student-athletes each year.
Remember that competitive spirit earlier referenced by the coach?
“Phenomenal,” the coach remembers of Castro as a student and an athlete. “We talked about what are you going to major in, and he said, `What’s the highest ranked program down there?’ and I said industrial engineering is No. 1 in the country. He said, `OK I’ll do that.’ That’s just Roberto matter-of-factly.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody manage all that is required of a student-athlete better than Roberto. He’s certainly one of the most efficient people I’ve met in any walk of life.”
He’s not using his IE degree now, at least not professionally, but Castro may be as proud of that piece of paper as he is any of his 10 top-10 PGA Tour finishes since 2012.
“I kind of wanted to do engineering, and it’s kind of broad,” he said of his choice of major. “I really enjoyed IE and met some really smart people. Fall semester senior year, I spent 40 hours a week on that [Capstone] project and played hardly any golf … Nobody can take that degree away, nobody can take that time away.”
Castro’s time on the Flats was special on multiple levels.
The Jackets tied North Carolina and Virginia Tech, respectively, for ACC titles in his junior and senior seasons.
His best campaign came when he was a sophomore.
On the way to becoming a first-team All-American, he finished the year ranked No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Castro was third in the NCAA Championship, Tech’s top finisher in five of eight spring events, paced the ACC in scoring (70.84), had three top-10 finishes in the fall, and went on to play for the United States in the Palmer Cup for the first of two times.
It’s easy in some ways for Castro to miss his college days.
He has earned $6,593,585 from golf, yet life as a pro is difficult in ways that the rank and file might not stop to think about.
After winning five times in his sport’s minor leagues, he became a full-time member of the PGA Tour in 2012, and qualified for the coveted season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs.
He made it again in 2013, and once more in 2016 when he earned $2,520,574 while making 22 of 27 cuts on the PGA Tour. Castro finished third in the third leg of the playoffs last year, at the BMW Championship, and tied for 17th in the Championship itself at East Lake.
This season, he made just 10 of 25 cuts, earning $367,362, and missed the FedEx Cup playoffs by a wide margin. He’ll try to earn back his PGA Tour card for next season in this fall’s Web.com Tour playoffs.
The expenses that come with being a professional golfer — like air fares, hotels, meals, training fees, etc. — are significant. So can be the time away from family, which is a factor now for Castro.
Golf becomes almost secondary with marriage and family, and as Castro and wife Katie are now parents times two, the business of the essential work element of practice becomes tougher even though Roberto occasionally makes the short trip from his Buckhead home to Tech’s Noonan practice facility.
He hasn’t been making that trip as frequently as he would like.
“This year hasn’t been very good, and there’s a couple things that are up in the air. Golf’s a year-to-year contract,” Castro said. “That hits you very, very quickly when you turn pro. I went from getting a sheet of paper that said, `Be ready at 5 o’clock on Friday, we’ve got a flight for you, dinner for you, a hotel for you’ … to where you’re at Chili’s paying your own tab.
“Golf is really hard, and it’s about being tough, resilient, and it’s way more complicated than saying it’s really hard. That time spent traveling with the team was unique. I think we appreciated it when it was happening. We went to some great places, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas.”
Chances are Castro will calibrate quickly.
He’s been well-seasoned, thanks not only to his travails on the pro tours, but by his run through Georgia Tech. Heppler grinded on him while he was on The Flats, just as the coach did with all of his student-athletes.
With his Tech training, Castro figures to quickly adjust.
“Coach really believes that anything you do that is hard is good practice for anything else that is hard,” he said. “That’s kind of the Gerorgia Tech way, right? He has workouts probably 45 minutes earlier than you need to because it’s hard.”
Heppler didn’t mind that temper. He said of Castro, “It’s competitive nature. I’ve never been able to turn up the competitive nature of somebody if they didn’t have it.”