In the past few years, some college golfers have been watched more closely than others. Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson, was one that always turned heads while at Clemson. Recent Oklahoma State graduate Kevin Tway was a star in Stillwater, Okla., because he followed his father Bob’s footsteps (who played professionally), and Cheyenne Woods draws attention because she calls Tiger Woods her uncle.
In Utah, however, there is another legacy in college golf who goes unnoticed largely because most people don’t even know he exists. Mason Casper is a member of the Utah Valley men’s golf team in the America Sky Conference. Casper, a junior, is the grandson of three-time major winner and 51-time PGA Tour winner Billy Casper.
From Springville, Utah, Mason Casper wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. During his junior career he won a handful of high school tournaments and six junior events in Utah.
“I was never really recruited,” Casper said. “I remember one coach called me and another e-mailed me, but I never even took an official visit.”
Casper’s dream of playing college golf out of high school was short lived. Prior to graduating he found out that the NCAA had failed to clear him because of his academic records. Feeling discouraged and disappointed, Casper elected to go on a mission trip to Rancagua, Chile, for two years.
Prior to enrolling at Utah Valley, Casper sold home security systems for a company called Pinnacle. Married in March of 2010, his wife Chelsea sensed that something wasn’t right with Mason.
“She knew I wanted to play golf for a school.” Casper said. “She told me that if I don’t go do it now, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”
Casper then enrolled at Utah Valley, but knew he had to be a full-time student for a year to fulfill the necessary class requirements to be cleared by the NCAA. During that first year, Casper approached then-head coach Clark Rustand. He asked Rustand if he could try out for the team the next fall. Rustand granted Casper the opportunity, but prior to the 2010 fall season Rustand resigned. Casper then went in search of new head coach Chris Curran.
“I was impressed with him the day that I actually met him,” Curran said. At the end of the fall semester Casper got his chance to try out for the team, and in January of 2011 became an official member of the Utah Valley golf team.
In his first collegiate start that spring at the Southern Utah Pat Hicks Invitational, Casper posted a 7-under total to win the tournament by 10 shots.
“Everyone always asks who taught me how to play the game,” Casper said. “I’m mostly self-taught, but my grandfather taught me everything I know about course management and that’s been the biggest difference-maker.”
Now a junior for the Wolverines, Casper has one other victory and has posted seven top-10 finishes. He currently is ranked 199th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings and hopes to soon have an opportunity to face off against some of college golf’s best.
“I know that with the schedule I have there’s not many chances for me,” Casper said. “I would love to compete one day against UCLA’s Patrick Cantlay and see how I do.”
Mason may not have the chance to battle Cantlay soon, but he will have the chance to compete against Washington’s Chris Williams and Oregon’s Eugene Wong at the Bandon Dunes Championship in mid-March.
It’s been a journey, but Casper says he is glad he pursued his playing dream. Casper is the top-ranked Utah Valley golfer, and hopes that he and his teammates can win the inaugural America Sky Conference Championship in the spring. That victory would come with an automatic qualifier into the NCAA Championship.