Rising Sons. The Asselta brothers excel at the game their father covers as play-by-play host for PGA Tour Live. By Hank Gola
Ryan Asselta and his wife, Kim, were standing off the 18th green at Colonie Golf Club in Schenectady, N.Y. They were with their 15-year-old son, Michael, who had just shot a 66 to tie for first place in the Northeastern New York Section’s PGA Junior Championships, Boys 13-15 Division. The player he tied was his 13-year-old brother, Rory, who was now over a 25-foot putt to the break that tie and avoid a playoff – as well as a conundrum for their parents.
“As you can imagine, my wife and I are freaking out how that's gonna go,” Asselta says. “But Rory just rolled it in. Just as calmly, Michael turned to us and said, ‘I knew he was going to make it.’”
Born just 18 months apart, the Asselta boys are providing their parents a number of thrilling moments as they excel at the game their father covers as play-by-play host for PGA Tour Live. Among their most recent accomplishments was Rory’s July win in the 14-and-under age group at the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Boys Championship at Royce Brook, where he was 7-under par for two rounds to win going away by 10. Rory finished 12th out of 145 boys in the 13-14 division at the Future Masters in Alabama, where Michael, as one of the youngest players in the 15-18 division, made the cut in a field of 245. Michael, who qualified for and competed in the Met Junior Championship in July, is also looking forward to his sophomore season at St. Joseph Regional High School, where he was named All-North Jersey as a freshman and nominated for North Jersey Player of the Year.
“We try to keep an eye when they’re against each other as to what the dynamics are like, but they’re really close,” Asselta says. “They play a lot together at our home course, and they compete with each other. But I think they keep it in perspective. They know they’re brothers. They push each other, which is really good, but not to the point where there’s any issues.”
Asselta, a solid 7 handicap at Ramsey Golf and Country Club, has long passed the point where he can beat Michael, a +1.7, or Rory, a +2.8. The kids delight in bombing it past him off the tee. But it was Ryan who got his kids started from the time they were toddlers.
“They were born when I was in television up in Boston,” he explains. “My wife worked normal hours, but I was working nights for the FOX affiliate, and I didn’t go to work till 3:30. Rory was 18 months, and Michael was around 3 at the time, so what does a young dad do with two kids under 3 all day in the summertime?
“I got them plastic clubs, and I would chip, and we’d put a stick in the ground, and we would be out there for hours.” he adds. “I just always had a club in their hands. Then they wanted to start going to the driving range and, quickly, they just took to it. They played in their first tournament at Pine Barrens when Rory was 5 1/2 and Michael was 7.”
Ryan caddied for them both as much as he could in those early tournaments but now it’s mostly watching. “Kim doesn’t play, but she spends a lot of time on the golf course. She’s in charge of snacks and hydration and umbrellas,” he says with a laugh. “It honestly takes a full family effort. We have a lot of support from our family, especially my sister Meaghan. She was an all-state athlete in New Jersey and softball for Rutgers, so she’s got the athletic mindset. She’s a big asset to us.”
It’s a true family affair.