PITTSBURGH – If the new Bulldog head cover and the two putters with “Go Zags” on the left side of the faces didn’t give it away, professional golfer Kyle Stanley is one of the Gonzaga men’s basketball team’s biggest fans.
Thanks to a big assist from his fifth- grade teacher.
Stanley, who grew up in Western Washington, was sitting in class at St. Charles in Tacoma in March 1999, when he was 11 years old. His teacher was a Gonzaga graduate and the assignment that day sure beat homework.
“It was when Richie Frahm and all those guys were making their run in the NCAAs and they had a day game,” Stanley said. “She let us watch them during class. We thought that was the coolest thing ever. She’s kind of the reason I started following them.”
He’s been following the Zags since, even though he played his collegiate golf at Clemson. Stanley will be on hand for the Gonzaga-Pittsburgh game today. It’ll be his first time attending a Gonzaga game since the 2008 Battle in Seattle against Connecticut.
He rarely misses a GU game on television.
“I feel like I live and die with them,” he said. “I’m not a guy who has a lot of hobbies. When people ask me what my hobbies are, a lot of times I say Gonzaga basketball, whether it’s in season or not. I use basketball to get myself away from golf.”
This week, he’s getting away from the PGA Tour after playing eight of the last nine weeks. After Stanley lost a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole at the Farmer’s Insurance Open in late January and eventually fell to Brandt Snedeker in a playoff, he was sitting in his hotel room in a pretty foul mood.
“I was devastated from (the tournament) and I see my phone light up and it’s (Gonzaga coach) Mark Few,” said Stanley, explaining Few’s text told him to keep his head up. “It totally turned my night around. I can’t really describe how much it meant for him to do that.”
Stanley won the Waste Management Phoenix Open the next weekend. He ranks second in the FedEx Cup standings and he’s made nearly $2 million in prize money this season.
Everyone on tour knows about Stanley’s GU allegiances. It might have something to do with him showing up for practice sessions in sweats and Gonzaga shirts.
“My coaches follow them, my trainer follows them,” said Stanley, who hopes to meet Few for the first time today. “I’m biased, but I like our chances (against West Virginia). A lot of my neighbors in South Carolina are big Ohio State fans so we’ve been jabbing each other back and forth. I hope we get to play them (Saturday).”