Delisi inks commitment to play golf at UCLA
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Phil Delisi has played The Game as long as he can remember.
“I’ve pretty much had a club since I could walk, I think,” the Yokota senior said, moments after he signed a national letter of intent to golf for UCLA on full scholarship next fall.
Nov. 12 is national signing day for many prospective NCAA student-athletes. Given the time zone difference, Delisi had to wait until Nov. 13 to sign his letter. It was probably the smallest of the many obstacles he’s had to endure trying to win a scholarship to play golf in the U.S. while his father, an Army officer stationed here, took the family overseas.
“Being overseas has really helped me hone in my game and I think be able to take it to another level,” Delisi said. “The courses here are narrower than the ones I’m used to in the States. That really helped me with my accuracy, though.”
The entire Delisi family golfs and his father joked that if Phil wanted to spend time with the family, he would have to come out to the course.
“I’m guilty of forcing [my son] to play,” Maj. Chong Delisi said laughing as he noted that his insistence has finally paid off. “When we went to Disney World, we spent all of our time playing the courses there. We didn’t even visit the amusement park. We’re a strange family.”
For the junior Delisi, golf was rarely a hobby reserved for vacations.
“It really began [to be serious] when I was seven playing competitive golf in Hawaii. I won a few tournaments and realized that I really enjoyed this game and wanted to pursue it,” he said. “We then moved to Texas and I won the state boys championship when I was 14. I began to believe I could play at a great college and maybe go pro someday.”
Two years ago, the Delisi family moved from Texas to Japan, where greens fees are significantly higher.
The narrower courses here forced him to work on his weaknesses by shaping his shots more accurately.
“It’s really changed my perspective of the game playing here and travelling back to the States to play,” he said. “The different levels of competition and the cultural differences between players really gave me a unique world view of the game.”
What made it especially challenging, though, is that most DODDS schools in the Pacific – including Yokota - don’t have varsity golf teams. This limited him to the few local tournaments hosted on base as well as the few tournaments for top-level junior national talent.
But “the DoD courses are a great benefit. I can play an unlimited number of rounds there, but they’re also a little far from where I live,” Delisi said. “But the Par 3 here in Yokota is my favorite facility. It forces you to dial in your short game and that’s the majority of golf.”