After learning how to walk and talk, swinging a golf club was the next step for CSU sophomore and men’s golfer Jake Staiano.
“It started when I was a year-and-a-half, two years old and my dad put a plastic club in my hand,” Staiano said. “(Golf) is something I grew up with, it’s just what I loved to do.”
That love for the game blossomed as those plastic clubs were replaced with a full-set that quickly found itself in the hands of one of the best young golfers in the state. Staiano would go on to record six holes-in-one before the age of 13, become the number one golfer in the state of Colorado and advance to the second stage of U.S. Open qualifying, all before he took his first swing as a Ram.
Amidst all of this, Staiano’s mind has never wavered from what truly matters to him: Faith and family.
“I want golf to be a platform for God and what His plan for me is,” Staiano said. “I know that He has a plan for me, and if that plan is for me to continue playing golf after college, then I’m 100 percent willing to do that.”
Sports are frustrating, and golf might just be the most frustrating of all. When one poorly struck shot can change the outlook of the entire round, it is easy to fall into a funk. But with Staiano’s faith comes a peace of mind that that cannot be understated, something he has learned to use on the course.
“Last year, spring semester, I didn’t play a single tournament and I could have gotten super down,” Staiano said. “But there’s nothing that I have to worry about, I don’t have any worries when it comes to the golf course now. I just go out and have fun and do what He’s blessed me with. I can feel comfort in whatever happens, happens, which is awesome.”
Well, whatever has happened in his golfing career is something special. After recording his first hole-in-one at the age of six, an accomplishment Staiano casually shrugged off, his second came a year later in front of competitors and their parents from across the globe.
While playing at a tournament in Virginia with the top 7-year-old golfers in the world, Staiano took the fateful swing that thousands would eventually see.
“There was another mom, just videotaping her son,” Staiano said. “And she happened to videotape me, and I made it. So I have it on video.”
It’s what followed that is so fitting of Staiano’s beliefs.
On Thanksgiving Day, the video aired on Golf Channel for the world to see. Friends and family gathered around the T.V. to watch and celebrate the feat together. On a day that encourages togetherness as much as any other day of the year, the Staiano family did just that – came together and rejoiced.
Thirteen years later and nothing has changed. The family that delighted with Staiano in times of triumph is the same family that uplifts him during the lows that come with college golf. Good round or bad round, it doesn’t matter. His family is right there by his side through it all.
“They have been the biggest supporters of me since day one,” Staiano said. “I couldn’t thank them enough for the time, effort, money – everything they’ve given me so I can do what I love. There’s nothing else I could do to repay them. It’s the biggest blessing I’ve ever had in my life, to be completely honest. Every decision I make, they’re 100% with me. It’s unbelievable.”
Continued familial support helped put Staiano in a place to succeed throughout high school and into college. Coming out of Valor Christian High School, Staiano was the number one ranked golfer in the state of Colorado. Following his decision to attend CSU over the likes of CU, DU and Loyola Marymount, Staiano took a stab at U.S. Open qualification.
After shooting a 1-over 72 at Broadmoor’s East Course in Colorado Springs, Staiano advanced past the local qualifying stage to the sectional stage in Germantown, Tennessee. Had he been able to string together two successful rounds, Staiano would have qualified for the U.S Open.
Instead, he uses the qualifying rounds to his advantage. Having already had so much experience in the most competitive golf settings, Staiano’s maturity is beyond his years.
“It was a really good experience,” Staiano said. “Just to have it under my belt is awesome. I got to play with a couple of professionals. I played with a kid who’s my age, he goes to Alabama, and he actually qualified. So I got to see someone qualify, it was fun to learn from that.”
With the fall season concluding two weeks ago in Hawaii, the CSU men’s golf team turns its attention towards offseason training and preparation for the spring season. Having missed out on regionals the last few years, Staiano and the Rams have their sights set on postseason play.
“I know the stereotype is that golfers don’t work out,” Staiano laughed. “But we work out a lot. And even when it’s snowing we have a pretty sweet facility out by Harmony. We can hit in-to-out if there’s snow on the ground, or just hit into the net and putt around in there.”
“We have so much talent on this team,” Staiano continued. “Our number one goal is to make it to the postseason – regionals and hopefully the national championship. We have enough guys to do it and the talent to do it, it’s just putting it together at this point. I’m excited to see where the spring will take us.”
Although the stakes may be higher in college, the game is the same for Staiano.
“It’s hard to think where I would be without golf,” Staiano said. “The game has grounded me, it sort of gives me something to fall back on. It’s put me on the right path and has given me a perspective of what I really want in life.”
And what he really wants always comes back around to his faith.
“I want to express what God has done for me through golf and how He can help me be a better person and help influence the people around me,” Staiano said. “It’s really nice to have Him be there with me through that whole journey.”
Collegian sports reporter Colin Barnard can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_