Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Aug. 7 digital edition of Golfweek Magazine.
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Mark Castillo called July 24 the “best day as a golf father that I’ve ever had.”
Not only did Castillo’s sons Derek, 19, and Ricky, 16, qualify for this month’s U.S. Amateur at Riviera Country Club, located less than 50 miles from the family’s home in Yorba Linda, Calif., but they did it on the same day and at different sites.
“Both my boys have won big tournaments, but they’ve never done it on the same day,” Mark said. “It was pretty special.”
Mark carried Ricky’s bag for the 36-hole qualifier at Western Hills Country Club in Chino Hills, Calif., while Derek was less than an hour away at Mission Viejo Country Club. After Ricky wrapped up his morning round, carding an even-par 72, he and his dad checked the live scoring from Derek’s qualifier. Derek had shot 7-under 64 and was leading by five shots.
“By him playing that well I almost was thinking it was a guarantee he’s in,” Ricky said.
Derek’s stellar play inspired Ricky, and the younger brother went out in the afternoon and shot 68 to finish second and, more importantly, grab one of three tickets to Riviera. Derek finished his second round before Ricky, adding a 70 to capture medalist honors by six shots. He quickly asked an official how his brother was doing and received good news.
“I wasn’t really surprised because he’s been playing so well, but I was definitely happy,” Derek said.
This will be the second U.S. Amateur start for each brother – Derek missed the cut at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2014 and Ricky did the same at Olympia Fields in 2015. This time, though, each feels more prepared. Familiarity helps.
Derek has played Riviera twice, and Ricky has attended tournaments there. Both brothers followed Jordan Spieth and Texas during a practice round for the 2012 NCAA Championship. And when Ricky was 8, Mark took he and Derek out of school to watch the pros play the Northern Trust Open.
“To be there when they’re actually playing in an event – and it being the U.S. Amateur – is going to be a dream come true for all of us,” said Mark, who isn’t going to caddie for either son at the Aug. 14-20 championship so that he can, if the pairings allow, watch both of his boys.
Before signing up for their qualifiers, the Castillo brothers knew they didn’t want to play at the same site. They’re too competitive. Mark remembers the one year his boys played high school golf together at Valencia High. Derek was a senior, Ricky was a freshman and Mark was the coach.
“They both got co-MVPs that year,” Mark said. “I don’t know if I could’ve walked in the house if one or the other got MVP.”
But make no mistake, there is a lot of love between these brothers.
“We just push each other to be our best and we love seeing each other play well,” Derek said. “Some of the best and most fun rounds are when we go out and I shoot 68 and he beats me because he shoots 67.”
Ricky, a 2019 recruit who committed to the University of Florida, is the better player of the two now, sitting at No. 494 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking to Derek’s No. 3,049 ranking. But Derek has seen his game turn around this summer and will play for Cal State-Fullerton this fall after transferring from UNLV, where he played as a freshman.
“Coming home, I was really able to get focused on golf again,” Derek said. “I just felt a lot more comfortable going to practice, and I felt like I was able to get a lot more work down out here.”
Derek also said he benefited from caddying for Ricky at last month’s U.S. Junior Amateur, where Ricky made it to the Round of 16. It allowed him to gain perspective on the game, and Ricky certainly welcomed the experience and familiarity on his bag.
As for pops, well, he just made sure he had some tissues.
“Watching them at the U.S. Junior together, there were so many times where I had tears in my eyes,” Mark said. “You know, seeing your two sons out there and Ricky was playing well, there were times where I had goosebumps. It was hard to watch golf because I was just happy to see my two sons out there working as a team.”
Mark expects those emotions at the U.S. Amateur to be tenfold.