Ex-Blackhawk Puyat finds niche at Stanford

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LA QUINTA — For Marcel Puyat, it would be tough to find a much better situation for his freshman year as a college golfer than the position he is in at Stanford.

“It is pretty intriguing for me to come to a team that is so strong,” Puyat, a former La Quinta High School golfer said of being on a Stanford team that has been ranked No. 1 in the country for most of the early season. “I could have gone to other schools where I would have been third or fourth on the team now, ensured a spot.

“But here it’s great competition every, time especially when we are qualifying. It’s a good environment,” Puyat added.

Puyat, a native of the Philippines who played his senior year of high school golf at La Quinta, missed qualifying to be a member of the Cardinal’s team for the school’s first two tournaments this year. But the 18-year-old did qualify to play as an individual in last week’s Prestige at PGA West in La Quinta.

Puyat broke par-72 in all three rounds and finished tied for 17th at 5-under 211 in the 84-player field at the Norman Course at PGA West.

“It was nice that he qualified as an individual and was able to come back down here,” said Stanford head coach Conrad Ray.

Ray said Puyat was a natural for him to recruit to Stanford.

“When we could recruit him, which would have been his junior summer, he was medalist at the (U.S.) Amateur and Junior Amateur,” Ray said. “Plus he’s just a nice kid. He fits in well. It’s been great getting to know him and getting to know his family.”

While many athletes find the transition from high school to college dizzying at best, Puyat said he has settled into a routine quickly at Stanford.

“School has been better than I had expected from the perspective of being able to manage my time. I thought that would be really hectic, like workouts and school and golf and have no other time,” Puyat said. “But it’s been all right. I enrolled in a light schedule this quarter. I don’t think it has been too bad so far. But I haven’t had midterms yet.”

While learning his way around the academics of Stanford, Puyat says he has also learned where he needs to take his game to be more competitive in college.

“Scoring-wise, I don’t think I am surprised at anything,” he said. “Maybe the thing I have to take to the next level is my distance. I felt like I had an advantage at the junior and high school level, and now I am just back to average again.”

For now, Puyat finds himself on the edge of qualifying for Stanford’s five-player tournament teams but taking advantage of his non-playing weeks to work on sorting out his schedule.

“I’d love to play every week, to be honest. But it will work out fine with the events if I do not qualify for a few,” Puyat said. “I’ll catch up on some of my school work. But I do want to be playing. That’s the goal.”

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