Taylor Funk, son of Fred, blazes own trail at Texas

Taylor Funk, son of Fred, blazes own trail at Texas

Men

Taylor Funk, son of Fred, blazes own trail at Texas

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EUGENE, Ore. – Taylor Funk grew up on the PGA Tour. First-name basis with Tiger and Phil, caddied for dad at majors and, because he was homeschooled, didn’t step foot in a proper classroom until his freshman year of college. The Funk family lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., three miles from TPC Sawgrass (where his father, Fred, won the 2005 Players), Taylor’s home course, and during Players week, 100-plus Tour folks came over for a backyard concert.

It was a unique childhood, living in hotel rooms with his parents and younger sister. Packing, unpacking. Packing again. Every week must have felt like a field trip. Geography and history brought to life everywhere from small-town USA to George, South Africa.

When Taylor told his father that he wanted to play college golf at Texas, the eight-time PGA Tour winner warned him that, despite being a solid player, there’s a chance he might not ever start at a program that strong.

“And I don’t think you really gain anything by not starting,” said Fred, who coached at Maryland in the 1980s. “But immediately he said, ‘Dad, I’ll start.’ He says, ‘I’ll be good enough.’ ”

Son stayed true to his word, cracking the starting lineup 10 times this season. His 11th start, the 2016 NCAA Championship, puts him in a national spotlight for the first time, as Golf Channel cameras will roll on Texas, No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, starting Monday.

In a stroke-play event, Beau Hossler might glean most of the attention as he typically hovers near the top of the board. (Hossler won five times this season; Texas won seven of nine events this spring.) But in match play, where the Longhorns hope to land on Tuesday, there’s no telling which player might land in the hot seat.

And Funk, with his family ties, will be a fun storyline to follow.

Sharon Funk first met Fred at the 1992 Shell Houston Open. Sharon, the daughter of former Texas Congressman Bill Archer, a former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, lived at TPC at The Woodlands and served as a volunteer that week. They met briefly for five minutes, and a year later were reintroduced through friends.

Sharon, interestingly enough, was trying to play her way onto the LPGA at the time. The couple married in 1994, and Sharon gave birth to Taylor the next year.

“I haven’t really played since,” she said.

While Fred competed in this week’s Senior PGA in Benton Harbor, Mich., finishing tied for 44th, Sharon kept watch on Taylor in Eugene.

“She knows the game really well,” Taylor said. “More than almost anyone out there. … She knows how I swing and knows how I think.”

Texas coach John Fields calls Taylor’s transformation since coming to Austin two years ago “remarkable.” He has put on about 30 pounds of muscle, going from a guy who hit it 255 yards off the tee to over 300.

“He’s 50 yards longer than me in the air,” Fred said.

Fields noted that while Hossler essentially has played the same style of game for the past four or five years, Funk is acquiring his own style now.

“When you have a faster gun, you want to shoot it all the time,” Fields said of the increased clubhead speed. “He’s learning where to pick his spots.”

And while college can be a difficult transition for any teen, Funk faced an especially steep learning curve.

“He went from a school of one to a school of 50,000,” his mother said.

Funk looks like his father. They have the same drive, Sharon said, and the same short fuse. But it’s Taylor’s younger sister, Perri, who is more like Fred. Taylor mostly takes after mom.

After the second round, Sharon told her son that he was impatient in his 75 and his self-talk was too negative. She’s reading a book now called “Inner Excellence,” by performance coach Jim Murphy, and the life-long student and teacher is itching to pass along everything she is learning to her kids.

“When you have so much given to you,” said Sharon, “and you have this kind of entitlement, you don’t always enjoy where you are every day of your life.”

Taylor listens to mom. He’s a respectful, well-spoken 20-year-old who works with the same instructor as Jordan Spieth (Cameron McCormick) and has all the tools for success at his disposal.

“He’s building his identity and his history right now,” Fields said.

The surname Funk carries the obvious expectations. Such is the weight that comes with being a Tour player’s son. But that’s not how it is with his adopted Longhorns family.

“They look at me as Taylor,” he said. “They’re not giving me any privileges for being a professional golfer’s son. I’m working my butt off trying to be the best I can be and help this team as much as I can.”

The Funks can’t ask for more.

– Alex Miceli contributed to this report

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