TAMPA — When Anthony Maccaglia was a senior at Jesuit High in 2010, many Division I collegiate golf coaches thought he wasn’t big enough, that he didn’t hit it long enough or that he simply wasn’t good enough.
Wrong, wrong and wrong.
Apparently, many coaches simply didn’t look deep enough.
“The fact is Anthony Maccaglia could play for anybody at any (collegiate level),” Ogle- thorpe University coach Jim Owen said. “I’m just thrilled he’s playing for us.”
That would be for the Division III Oglethorpe Stormy Petrels, whose mascot, unlike many more menacing Division I mascots, is a “tube-nosed seabird in the bird order Procellariformes.” More importantly, Oglethorpe (located in Atlanta with a student population of about 1,000) is a Division III golfing powerhouse and Maccaglia, a junior, is by far the leading Petrel.
Maccaglia, in fact, has been so good the past two years that he won the Division III individual national title as a freshman, was named the 2012 Division III player of the year, and played outstanding in several prestigious national amateur events, including a 15th-place finish at the Dogwood Invitational and a fourth at the Southwestern Amateur.
Suddenly, Maccaglia — who stands about 5-foot-9, weighs 155 pounds and drives it no more than 275 yards — was a giant slayer, and the next thing he knew, the nation’s most prestigious college all-star golf squad, the Palmer Cup team, came calling for his services.
That’s why on Thursday through Saturday, Maccaglia will tee it up at the Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England, alongside nine other Division I players representing the U.S. in a Ryder Cup format against Europe’s top collegians.
“I guess all the hard work paid off because everything in my game improved once I got to college,” Maccaglia said Sunday from an airport in Rhode Island (after competing in the Northeastern Amateur) before flying to England. “After I learned I had made the (Palmer Cup) team I was shaking and then I was just ecstatic. I take it as proof that I can play (with the Division I players). I can’t wait to get out there and play.”
Maccaglia, 20, said he hasn’t had much experience with links-style courses such as Walton Heath, but feels his game can adapt to any situation. For starters, his swing is as simple and efficient, and his short game is, well, off the charts — particularly on the putting green.
“He can putt as well as anybody at any level,” Owen said. “He’s that good. Inside 10 feet he is just unbelievable. To me, that’s the strongest part of his game, and that’s what separates him.”
Maccaglia makes sure to credit his parents and his teaching pro, Tampa’s Jamie Jackson, who ingrained solid habits and golf-swing knowledge since he was 9 years old.
“Anthony has always been an outstanding student of the game,” Jackson said. “He always wanted to learn more and more, and then he went out and worked at it.
“Now he has great mechanics and knowledge and confidence. I believe all of this will serve him well as he moves forward.”
The hope is to one day make it on the PGA Tour, because, as Maccaglia said, “I absolutely love playing the game. I can’t get enough.”
But first things first, and at the moment that means the Palmer Cup.
“Some people may think that Division III players can’t hang with Division I guys,” Maccaglia said. “To me, that takes away all the pressure off me. They may not expect as much from me, but I want to show them they should expect a lot.
“This is an awesome opportunity.”