Thomas Longbella shines in UMN freshman golf season

The freshman has an older brother, Andrew, who also golfed in college.

Drew Cove

No matter the sport, no matter the setting, competitiveness is in his blood.

One of Minnesota’s newest golfers, freshman Thomas Longbella is a competitive player for many reasons.

“It was always a goal of mine to beat [my older brother] — to be better than him,” Longbella said. “He’s just kind of been a role model for me throughout my entire golf career … If I have any issues or I want to talk about something with him about golf, I definitely will go to him.”

His brother, Andrew, is 14 years older than him and played golf at St. John’s University.

Longbella said the influence of his brother and his dad came to play when he was about three or four years old and on the driving range, immersed in the game.

The Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin native grew up playing golf, but that’s not the only sport he spent his time playing.

“I played hockey growing up until my freshman year of high school, then I gave that up for golf,” Longbella said. “I really think a lot of my golf swing is actually translated from hockey, kind of like a slapshot. My swing has evolved since I stopped playing hockey, but definitely when I was younger I had the slapshot-type swing.”

On top of hockey and golf, Longbella said he is also good at ping pong.

“It’s really competitive, just like golf, it’s kind of a ‘head-on’ sport, so I really liked that aspect about it,” he said.

Now that Longbella is coming into the back-nine of his first season with the Gophers, his transition has been smooth, and that has to do with his competitive attitude.

“He’s the ultimate competitor,” said head coach John Carlson. “And [he] had as much talent as anyone we’ve recruited in several years.”

Longbella’s adjustment to the college game has been swift, and with his desire to be great and win, he is making the necessary improvements to succeed.

Carlson said that he has been working on his wedge play and distance control — both of which have gotten considerably better.

“[Assistant] Coach [Justin] Smith, in the fall, followed me for every round that I played,” Longbella said. “He just kind of walked around with me, gave me advice and made sure I was on the right track. He really taught me a lot about my game.”

Working with Smith and at practice has consistently improved Longbella’s short game and his chipping, Carlson said.

Longbella has led the Gophers in two of the seven tournaments he has appeared in so far this season.

His top finish at a tournament this season was tied for sixth and he has two top-20 finishes.

Longbella also leads the Gophers with the lowest round-score of the season, a 63.

While he has performed well on the course in his rookie season, Longbella isn’t always all business.

“He’s a jokester,” Carlson said. “He’s fun to be with on team trips. He really is the type of teammate and person that people want to be around.”