Blue Demon captain Jan Juelicher believes this year's team is the most talented in his four years at DePaul.
Feb. 5, 2015
CHICAGO - A pair of extremely intelligent and highly competitive identical twins are blending their skills into a young, ambitious DePaul men's golf team with its sights set on a BIG EAST Conference title.
Rookies Freddy and Bobby Thomas are among six freshmen and sophomores getting set to open the spring season Feb. 9-10 at the Carlton Oaks Invitational in Santee, Calif.
Sophomore Jonathan Hewett finished the fall season with a 74.0 stroke average and a pair of top-10 finishes. Freddy Thomas was second at 75.4 followed by twin brother Bobby and junior Adrian Halimi (75.8). Sophomore James Lelliott (76.5) and senior captain Jan Juelicher (77.0) rounded out the top six.
"In my four years, I've seen all different teams," Juelicher said. "I'd say this team could be the best we've ever had. All the guys have talent, heart and put in a lot of hard work. We had a couple good individual performances in the fall season, but we haven't clicked yet as a team.
"Part of it is the new faces. We have a very international team, and we have to start mixing in with the new guys who are from the USA. It takes a little time to fit everyone into a team concept.
"Even though our record in the fall did not reflect it, this is for sure the most talent we've had since I've been here."
The Thomas twins along with Hewett are in the forefront of the next generation of DePaul golfers.
On the golf course, Freddy and Bobby were among the five best high school golfers in Minnesota last year. Freddy won the 2014 Minnesota Junior Boys title by seven shots that included a career-best round of 66 and had seven sub-70 rounds last season. Bobby was ranked among the top three in Minnesota as a senior with a scoring average of 73.1.
Both scored a 34 on the ACT and had higher than a 4.3 grade-point average in high school. Freddy was No. 7 in a class of 440 and Bobby was No. 14.
They have been competing against each other since they were five years old when their father---former Wayzata (Minn.) Country Club teaching pro Scott Thomas---turned them loose on the driving range.
"There's competitiveness between Freddy and I that motivates me to be out there and inspires me," said Bobby, who recalled games of monopoly and checkers erupting into fistfights when they were kids. "I like to compete against him, but I absolutely hate to lose---especially to him.
"Last fall, his final score beat me by less than a single point. It got to me---I was so mad. I spent the whole offseason thinking that I'm coming back in the spring to beat him."
Although this sibling rivalry is driving both of them to reach for their potential, there is always that natural and close bond that neither can deny.
"I always have someone who knows what I'm going through and how I think," Freddy said. "We are a very good support system for each other."
Bobby shot back: "He can get on my nerves sometimes, but it is nice having him there when I need him."
"There was a time in our eighth grade year when heading into the Minnesota PGA Junior Championship, we both had finished the high school season with the exact same score of a 74.8 average," Freddy said as Minnesota allows seventh and eighth graders to compete on a high school team. "That's how close we can be.
"Until we were five years old, mom and dad could not tell us apart. So, they painted Bobby's fingernails blue---you know, Bobby Blue. Nobody, whether they were relatives or close friends, could tell us apart.
"We were in second grade and I had this test. Bobby said that he knew everything about it. He took the test for me and we pulled it off. Our teacher could not tell us apart.
"As we got older, it became a little easier to tell us apart. Until then, we pulled off a few other things. But by the fifth grade, we started thinking this wasn't the most ethical thing to do."
Even the twins couldn't tell each other apart.
"When I look at old photos now, I can't tell if it's him or me," Bobby said. "Academic advisor Kate O'Brien has problems telling us apart."
There are some differences. These days, they sport different hairstyles. Bobby likes classic 1980s music and some country. Freddy prefers contemporary rock. They do, however, like the same kind of food for the most part---much to Bobby's chagrin.
"I like more spice than he does," Bobby said. "I got tired of him eating all my food. Back home, our family leftover policy is that anything in the refrigerator is fair game at any time. So, I started throwing a lot of spice on my leftovers."
They were quite the sight as seventh-graders competing on Lakeville North's high school team where dad was an assistant coach. Bobby remembers he and his brother standing at 4-feet, 11-inches playing on the varsity golf team that included three athletes from the Lakeville North basketball team that stood 6-8, 6-6 and 6-4, respectively.
DePaul golf coach Betty Kaufmann said that everyone in the program was disappointed with last fall's results. She undertook some soul-searching individual meetings with her student-athletes to flush out the problem.
"The talent is evident, and there was nothing wrong with their swings," Kaufmann said. "We needed to improve on our mental toughness, and we addressed that as a group. If we had two or three bad holes, it was difficult to overcome.
"It was also a matter of confronting your fears. You miss a two-foot put and it feels like the end of the world. We needed more acceptance in dealing with how you're playing the game that day.
"One way is to accept how your game is going on a particular day and do your best under those conditions. Mental toughness comes from facing your fears. We're a team, and you can always rely on your teammates for support."
Kaufmann was encouraged by the intensity and dedication of her golfers in offseason workouts.
"A good sign that things are headed in the right direction was Freddy Thomas coming through with a top 12 finish at the prestigious Hardee's Holiday Classic in Pensacola, Fla. right after Christmas," Kaufmann said. "The highly competitive field featured a number of top collegiate golfers."
Bobby Thomas looked at the fall season as a wake-up call.
"I'm not too worried about it," he said. "It was like a kick in the pants, and the team has been working harder ever since. We're all excited to get outside after building some momentum in the offseason.
"From what the older guys have said, this has been the most productive offseason they've ever had. We've been communicating with teammates, working hard in the simulator and doing extra work in the weight room."
Kaufmann successfully doubled-down when she brought the twins to Lincoln Park.
"Freddy and Bobby are talented golfers who compete every day as they have competed against each other most of their lives," Kaufmann said. "It was good they came to school together. They're from a tight-knit golfing family and have helped each other adjust to college.
"They bring their competitive nature to our program along with players like Jonathan Hewett, Jan Juelicher and Adrian Halimi. All the guys are like that. I can take any of the eight golfers to a tournament and feel confident DePaul will do well.
"We have so much depth this season, and the guys are fighting for the fourth and fifth spots. Our recruiting has brought in a lot of talented freshmen and sophomores---guys like the twins, Hewett, James Lelliott, Jonathan Goldstein and Kyle Vincze. Any of these guys could take off at any time."
Juelicher came up with a strategy that would practically guarantee success in the BIG EAST season.
"Bobby and Freddy are both very competitive---especially with each other--- and they bring that characteristic to the team," Juelicher said. "Let's say we're playing St. John's. If each of us views that St. John's golfer like we're going against our twin brother, we're going to do everything we can to beat him.
"For sure, that would raise our competitive fire to such a high level."