Dressed in a classic white Lacoste t-shirt and perfectly groomed blue khakis, the slight-framed Casey Seve Calmi certainly looks the part.
His swing is a well molded slice of perfection, complementing both his outfit and clear-cut confidence. He measures up the first hole of North Woodmere Golf Course like a lion would his prey. He takes a few practice swings with his Titleist driver before standing over the ball. One more time, he glances at the narrow hole before striking. The next noise is the sound every golfer aims to hear. "Chh." The clean white ball soars into the distance over 300 yards before landing spot on in the middle of the fairway.
Growing up the son of a nationally ranked golf teacher in Queens, New York, Calmi has been around the game ever since he can remember. Golf was part of him even before he could pick up a club. He rarely played on ideally groomed greens or aligned fairways, nor did he travel the country on his parents' dime entering amateur tournaments like many young players. Calmi instead learned the game on the local public links.
His father, Mario, taught at the city driving range less than five minutes from home, so it was only natural for Seve (as his friends call him) to play there.
"When I was two years old, there is video and pictures (see slideshow below) showing me swinging a club," he says. "I'd walk to the busy driving range with my clubs on my back dressed ready to play and would hang out with my father all day hitting balls. "
"There would be days that my mother, Susan, would drop me off at a local course by myself and I'd just play with strangers," Seve says. "Some of my most cherished moments are playing in the dark with strangers and my mom waiting to pick me up behind the green."
Born of Italian and Spanish parents, the 23-year-old was named after Seve Ballesteros, the famed Spanish golfer who just recently passed away. And when asked what golfer he compares himself to, Calmi -- without hesitation -- replies, "Seve."
"I say so because he played with no fear." Calmi says. "There are a lot of guys like that but there's a difference. There are guys that have no fear in the middle of the fairway that'll go for a pin, or there's guys hitting out of the woods that are still going for the flag, which is sometimes me. I'll hit erratic shots from the tee (like Ballesteros) but I can make it up."
"My motto is: 'If I find my ball, I'm making birdie or par wherever I am.'"
When the time came to choose on a college, Seve decided on St. John's University, a mere six miles from his house. He rejected offers from around the country so he could stay close to his father.
"Playing college golf was a big adjustment; traveling with teammates and dealing with school was tough," he says, "but I got the hang of it. I went home a lot though. My mom plays a big part in both my life and career. She's very calm. I'm more like her [than my dad] -- very relaxed."
One of the distinct advantages Calmi had at St. John's was playing with good friend Keegan Bradley, a current PGA rookie who just last weekend won the prestigious Byron Nelson Championship.
"We became close buddies," he says. "Seeing how he parlayed his success from college to the pros was very beneficial for me."
Frank Darby, the head golf coach at St. Johns who recruited both Seve and Bradley, and feels the two mirror each other in some respects.
"I think [Seve] has had a real positive impact on Keegan," he says. "Seve is one of my favorite players I've ever coached. I just always liked his swash-buckling style. He played a little like Ballesteros in college. He has a lot of potential. I think if he stays in it for the long grind, he's got all the ability. I think it's just going to be a matter of time with him. Seve is just really, really close right now. He's a hard worker and great thing will come."
As Calmi continued to work towards his degree and golf career, he received a life-changing phone call during the summer of 2008.
"I was approached by the Republic of San Marino and asked to represent them in the Mediterranean Olympics" Calmi explains. "My father’s side of the family is from this small landlocked country located on the top of a mountain near the Adriatic Sea in Italy. As a result, my entire family has duel citizenship."
After a successful trip where he medaled, Calmi arrived back to the States in the winter with a newfound appreciation for the game and the limitless boundaries it seemed to offer.
The only problem was he couldn’t afford the hefty entry fees of tournaments (which run upwards of $1,000). Devastated, he found himself contemplating quitting so he could earn a full-time job and a consistent paycheck.
"A lot of young pros need a private financial sponsor. That's something I've struggled with, no question," Calmi says. "I didn’t have the opportunity in junior golf to play in the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association). It's very expensive. Most pros are groomed into playing these high class junior tournaments [before] college golf."
As a result of not being able to afford entry fees and his infrequent playing schedule, Calmi was forced to temporarily retire."I put the clubs away and considered giving up the game. Golf is a very expensive sport to play. I enrolled in a real estate program and said to myself: 'This is going to be my new profession,' " he says.
"After months of class and studying, it was time to take the exam. But in March, right before, I was at a local golf shop with my dad. I grabbed a club and really thought about my future. I thought: 'I’m only 22 years old and I’m giving up on my dream already.' I knew I had to give it a real shot."
Calmi though, had gone nearly nearly six months without so much as touching a golf club. He started the vicious practice cycle once again in preparation for the New York State Open. Then, just four days before the tournament began, his long time best friend -- Dr. Nate Bondi -- passed away from pancreatic cancer.
He pondered dropping out and once again taking a break from golf, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized he had to play.
"I was on a mission now," he says. "Nate would have wanted me to play." Calmi finished second in the tournament and knew his fate was sealed. Golf -- for better or worse -- was his career path.
"The key for me now is just to compete more," he says.
"The game is there. There's a big difference between competing and practicing though. Competing, you can have the worst swing, but if you're a good competitor, you can beat almost anybody, because you're in that grind mode. But I cannot let it discourage me. I continue to dedicate myself to this game because I love it."
Plus, he has his father as a key role model. "A lot of this is for him," Seve says. "I owe it to him to make it as far as I can. For him to recognize that, that would mean the world."
"My dad is my greatest inspiration," he says. "Even now, I still call him after every round of golf. In Europe, the phone bills were insane."
Mario is Seve's coach and biggest fan, but as someone who has been around the game his entire life, he fully comprehends some of the pitfalls of reaching the apex of pro golf, the PGA Tour.
"When [the ball] takes off it looks like a little aspiring when it takes off when you swing it this hard, so he's got a tremendous speed on his swing," he says. But you have to put it all together. That's a good trait to have because most of the courses are extremely long. He needs experience, because it's a losing game. If you think about it, you're always losing."
So, every day he trains with his father -- just as he did when he was two years old. All day they converse and hit, cracking the not-so-occasional joke and hitting balls until the golf gloves rip. It’s just the same as when he was two years old.
Well, not quite.
Now Seve can drive himself home.
Note: To follow Seve's progress, follow him on twitter @sevegolf1