College Sports

He chose golf over ballet and is setting records at Sacramento State

Sacramento State golfer Aaron Beverly practices at Valley Hi Country Club on Wednesday in Elk Grove.
Sacramento State golfer Aaron Beverly practices at Valley Hi Country Club on Wednesday in Elk Grove.

The pivotal moment in Aaron Beverly’s path to becoming perhaps the best male golfer in Sacramento State program history was a particularly disappointing round.

As Beverly remembers, it was his freshman year at Armijo High School in Fairfield and a sectional playoff. He shot somewhere in the mid-80s. To that point, golf had not been his main athletic focus. After the round, he called his father and swing coach, Ron, and pledged that would change.

“It was just so frustrating,” Beverly said. “I hate losing. And I played with a couple kids who just absolutely destroyed me. I just sat there and was like, ‘I’m so much better than this, and I know I can be.’”

Now a senior at Sac State, Beverly is nearing the end of a decorated college career. He was recently named the Big Sky Conference’s player of the year for the second year in a row. His current scoring average of 71 would break the school record of 71.83, which he set last season.

Last month, Beverly was the top individual finisher as Sac State won the team title at the Big Sky championship tournament in Boulder City, Nev. The Hornets clinched a berth in an NCAA Regional, their first since 2012, and will compete in the Stanford Regional beginning Monday at the Stanford Golf Course.

If not for the confounding allure of golf, though, Beverly’s pursuits might have involved not the clubs but the barre. Tall and slender, Beverly practiced ballet until the age of 15. His father had suffered knee injuries playing football and didn’t want a young Aaron following suit. So Aaron tagged along with his mother to dance classes and it turned out he was good – “a lot better at that,” he says, “than I was at golf.”

Dance practices ran for hours and involved executing the same movements over and over trying to perfect a routine. In hindsight, Beverly said, it helped him develop the discipline he now takes onto the golf course.

“You’re doing the same thing,” he said. “Repetition.”

Beverly says he started taking golf seriously around age 13. But there were earlier signs. Ron Beverly, who taught golf classes at Solano Community College while also coaching the football team, recalled a time the two were playing an executive course in Vacaville. They reached the final hole tied and wound up facing similar putts to preserve the score.

Ron missed. Aaron sunk his. It was the latter’s first time carding a lower round.

“We take off our hats and shake hands and he’s crying, he’s got tears coming out of his eyes,” Ron Beverly said. “I said, ‘What are you crying for?’ And he said, ‘Dad, I knew this day would come. I didn’t think it would come this soon.’ 

The kid was 10.

“I’m thinking, ‘You know what, you’re walking home,’ ” Ron said.

Aaron didn’t walk home. In fact, he cites his father as a driving force in his development as a golfer. The two would spend hours at the Paradise Valley course in Fairfield, honing aspects of Aaron’s game. When it rained they practiced in the garage, hitting Wiffle balls against the wall.

While Aaron was learning to swing a club, Tiger Woods was the best golfer in the world. So they studied Woods’ swing and compared it to video of Aaron’s swing filmed by Ron.

After his decisive moment at the high school sectional as a freshman, Ron said, Aaron “took it upon himself to practice every day.” As a high school senior, Beverly won the NorCal regional title. He headed for Sac State, and was about to start his sophomore season when both his parents fell ill. First, his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Shortly after, he said, he learned his mother had breast cancer.

“My dad being pretty much the most important person in my life, when I heard his deal I was pretty shaken,” Beverly said. “And then when I heard my mom, I was like, OK, this can’t happen at the same time. It was stressful for me, especially just being a kid.”

Beverly opted to redshirt the season. He still went to class but said he spent time at home on the weekends. He still went to the golf course – sometimes accompanied by his father, who was undergoing radiation treatments, and sometimes not.

“Treatments last five to 10 minutes a day, then you’d just drive your car out to the golf course, you’d take your stool and sit down and watch him swing,” Ron Beverly said. “It was not only good for me but it was good for him, to let him know I’m still here, I’m not going anywhere.”

By the end of his sophomore year, Beverly said, both his parents were in remission. He said the time gave him a new perspective on golf.

“Dealing with that you realize life is much more than just a game that you play,” Beverly said. “It allowed me to relax a lot more on the course and realize if you have bad days, it could be a lot worse.”

Fittingly, Beverly has already earned a degree in psychology and said he’s completing a minor in kinesiology this spring. He intends to turn pro in golf after his college career is over and perhaps become a sports psychologist down the road.

First, though, comes the NCAA Regional. Last year, Sacramento State looked poised to clinch a Regional berth at the Big Sky tournament, only to fall to Idaho on the final day. When the Hornets reconvened before this season, Beverly said, they held a meeting and made winning the conference team title a stated goal.

“He won at conference (this year) and said a couple words,” said Hornets coach Kamden Brakel, the Big Sky men’s golf coach of the year. “And he mentioned that in his speech – like, ‘I’ve waited 365 days to come back and to redeem this victory.’

“That tournament last year stayed with him every day, and there’s nothing that was going to interfere with him getting the victory this year at conference. That’s just the type of kid he is. He’s extremely competitive, and that’s what drives him.”