By Dillan Straight
The love of the game is a term any player of sports can recognize. But while most athletes make some form of commitment to these sports and practices, for Mario Funcic, a member of the college’s golf team, the process of just practicing and getting in a couple rounds also once included driving 144 miles just to play.
“Mario had to go approximately, by car, 72 miles one way just to play,” said golf coach Lafayette Norwood. “His practice facilities were very poor and provided a cap to what he was capable of.”
Growing up in Croatia, a country known more for its track and field players then golf, Funcic had to make a name for himself early, using what facilities were available to him and constantly looking to improve his game.
“I would play twice a week at that distance,” Funcic said. “A good portion of my time spent on the driving range.
“I had three golf courses in Croatia, and the closest one was over 70 miles from house. I traveled so much, using a 172 yard driving range to increase my game, and practicing with the National Team. I won National Championship of Croatia in 2010 and that’s why I came here.”
Funcic’s arrival at the college did not go by without the addition of a little flair. In his recruiting video he displayed his deep driving ability by swinging golf balls into Croatia’s weather for the day – a thick layer of deep fog.
“It was pretty eye-catching,” Norwood said.
“That was a pretty misty day,” Funcic said. “My agent contacted the college and coach Norwood offered me a full-ride, I accepted.”
Norwood said Funcic shot a 73 (+1) the first day and came back with a +4 the next day. He said Funcic carried the team as far as maturity.
“Mario is a very mature young man, as much as the game of golf goes,” he said. “He went in the tournament as most kids and did not know anything about the course. We practiced on it for one day, and he was able to be tied in first place [on the second day].”
Funcic has also found friendship with fellow team members.
“We’re all really good friends, we all hang out all the time,” said golfer Devin Monteque. “We really didn’t play that well last [match] and we still only lost by six shots. I think this could be one of the best seasons that Johnson County ever had.”
Funcic is now approaching his time at the college as an opportunity to grow, not only in his golf game but with a broad aspect of subjects.
“Good education, practice my English… it isn’t good enough,” he said. “Improve my golf and show it to other coaches. My dream is go to Oklahoma State, get my game together to where I could get a scholarship. That’s my dream to go there, but there are a lot of really good schools.
“Golf season, you have to make results and then you can go looking for something.”
Contact Dillan Straight, sports editor, at email@example.com.