Over the past two and a half years, the Occidental men’s golf team has been steadily climbing out of the cellar, moving from last to fourth place. During this ascent, team captain Colton Bares (junior) acted as the cornerstone of the team, playing in the top spot for the Tigers in each of the past two seasons. With the addition of several talented first years, Bares’ consistent play and contagious work ethic, the Tigers are poised to climb even higher.
Despite his success as a collegiate golfer and passion for the game, Bares found his initial interest in sports on the baseball diamond rather than the putting green.
“When I was 13 years old, baseball was my favorite sport, and I was a Little League all-star pitcher,” Bares said. “It was not until sixth grade that I started to play golf, and that was mainly because I injured my arm while playing baseball and had to get Tommy John surgery.”
Following his transition to golf, Bares did not enter a competitive match until he joined the Pinewood High golf team in Los Altos in his first year of high school. However, standing at 6-foot-7. Bares had a unique advantage over the majority of other players; he was able to use his height to generate greater swing speed and distance.
His natural talent, lanky body type and relentless work ethic enabled him to rapidly develop into a competitive player, as he claimed first team all-league honors in his junior and senior years of high school.
Bares continued to develop his game his first year at Occidental. In his first collegiate event, he posted a 78 to claim the top score for the Tigers. Following his first collegiate tournament, Bares moved into the number one position and became the anchor for Occidental.
In his second year, Bares continued to hold the top spot in the Tigers lineup. He claimed second team All-SCIAC honors while posting the low score at the team’s first place finish in the Occidental Challenge at Torrey Pines. Despite his solid play, Bares still felt he had room for improvement.
“My short game has always been solid, so if I can improve my game from tee-to-green and stay mentally strong, I think I can finish in the top 10 for the remainder of the events this season,” Bares said.
The extra effort Bares put in during his practice is already noticeable through the first few tournaments of the season. At the Blazer Invitational, Bares tied with teammate Will Mansfield (first year) as the low-medalist with a two-day total of 146. Later, in the first conference tournament of the year, Bares posted the second best score on the team (162), one stroke behind sophomore teammate Dylan Jirsa (161).
“He has grown into both a strong player and leader who has the ability to be one of the best in the country if he chooses to and continues to work,” former Occidental golf head coach Andrew Larkin said.
As the sole upperclassman on a young team, Bares helps his younger teammates with the difficulties of managing academics and the demanding golf practice schedule. During practice, Bares pushes his teammates to work hard and focus on developing their game while also helping to create a positive atmosphere.
“I think he expects a lot out of the guys and to that end he is hard on some of the guys in a way that makes you want to get better for the team,” Jirsa said. “He is like the team character, easy going and keeps the mood light.”
When Bares is not on the golf course, he enjoys spending his time playing tennis or attending other sporting events. But during the school year Bares does not have as much time to partake in other sports, as he is busy juggling his biology major with golf practice and matches.
Following graduation, Bares hopes either to continue his education and later enter the medical field or to shift gears and enter the business-oriented side of biology by working for a biotech company.
But not one to look too far into the future, Bares is focused on the current golf season and the continued progression of Occidental’s place within the SCIAC rankings.
“We have a lot of young guys on the team this year, but we are very talented and I think a third place finish in conference is definitely doable,” Bares said.
The next time Bares and the rest of the Tigers tee it up will be March 27, when they will head to Morongo Golf Club for the West Cup hosted by La Verne.