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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The coach in Mark Castillo often merges with the father in him, particularly when it comes to his children.

Mark wanted his three kids to have a level of competitiveness that would drive them to succeed. He started them young, often racing with them from their preschool gate to the classroom door. This silly, yet tactical race usually brought the most out of his kids. Especially a young, 3-year-old Ricky Castillo. 

Mark and Ricky raced every morning from gate to door. Nine out of 10 times, Mark would win. The outlier race which Ricky so sporadically won was often thrown by Mark. Until the one time it wasn’t. 

Mark and Ricky began their race just like every other. Mark took a comfortable lead ahead of Ricky, appearing to be on his way to yet another victory over his son. But for a young Ricky, it was just the beginning of what would ignite an unwavering competitive drive.

“Out of the corner of my eye, I see Ricky, and we’re getting closer to the door, and he jumps in the air and dives and touches the door. On the concrete,” Mark recalled. “And he landed on the concrete and dove, and he looked at me and said, ‘I win.’” 

He won, indeed. Even scraped arms and bleeding knees didn’t faze the competitive 3-year-old, and 15 years later there’s still not much that will faze the fifth-ranked amateur UF freshman golfer. 


Ricky Castillo’s journey from Yorba Linda, California, to Gainesville could be credited to one man: JC Deacon. The UF’s men’s golf coach and standout-freshman’s relationship spans seven years. For the story of how they met, why Castillo chose Florida and how that competitive three-year-old became one of the top amateur golfers in the world, watch the feature below.


Follow Victor Prieto on Twitter @victorprieto_11. Contact him at

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