Here’s an FGCU sports trivia question: Which is the only Eagles team to receive an at-large bid to an NCAA Tournament?
Women’s or men’s basketball? Good guess but wrong. The answer is men’s golf.
In 2022, FGCU finished second in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament but earned the NCAA bid, largely because it won the Auburn Intercollegiate that March. A big reason the Eagles won the Auburn Intercollegiate was that Frankie Capan III (’22, communication) and the Eagles lit up Grand National Lake Course in Opelika, Alabama.
Led by back-to-back rounds of 64 — his other round was a 69 — Capan won the event by eight strokes. FGCU beat second-place Auburn by 13 strokes.
“It was a pretty fun experience,” Capan said.
This year, when Capan qualified for the U.S. Open, tied for 62nd in the 3M Open in Minnesota, finished 51st and won more than $235,000 on the Korn Ferry Tour, it didn’t surprise anybody.
“He’s a talented young man, a great player,” FGCU men’s golf coach Andrew Danna said. “I remember the first conversation. I could tell right away he was a bright young man.
“When he got to campus and practiced and played in tournaments, he really worked hard. When he won that tournament, it was one of the best displays I’ve ever seen. Every facet of his game was on, and he ran away with it.”
The road to qualifying
Capan ranked high as a youth, high school and amateur golfer. In the last round of the state tournament of his senior season, he shot a 59.
He struggled more in college than at any other level, Capan said, focusing more on his future than where he was in the present.
To make the Korn Ferry Tour — the developmental tour for the U.S.-based PGA Tour — Capan competed in the PGA’s Q-School in 2022. He finished third in pre-qualifying: first by eight strokes in the first stage; tied for first in the second stage; and eighth in the final stage. That allowed him to play in the first 12 Korn Ferry tournaments of the season.
Three top-10 finishes and two top-five finishes earned him another 12 tournaments. By finishing 51st, he earned full status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour.
“I was tired at the end,” Capan said. “I’m not gonna lie. I was really tired. I was playing courses I hadn’t seen before. I’m used to playing quality rather than quantity, but that first year I played seven weeks in a row. It was definitely a change for me, and some injuries popped up.
“Fortunately, I skipped a couple of events. I didn’t gain points, but I qualified for the U.S. Open, which was great, and I got an exemption to play in Minnesota, which had been a goal.
“This year, I’m going to cap it at four tournaments in a row and work with a physical therapy guy and a personal trainer.”
Another highlight for Capan was having his mother, Charlynn Capan, caddy for him at times. He noticed that when he had some of his best rounds, she was on the bag.
“His mom is the best,” Danna said. “We love Charlynn. She knows golf and has a very good understanding of the game.”
Capan said his mother took a lot of pressure off him by studying the courses.
Helped by a 49-foot putt at the 3M Open, Capan stood at 6-under par and tied for 22nd after the first two rounds on a course 15 minutes from his home in North Oaks. He made the cut and earned more than $17,000.
“I struggled on the weekend,” he said. “It felt like I was the favorite to win. So many people had watched me grow up in Minnesota.”
Coming to FGCU
When Capan looked to transfer from Alabama, he called FGCU golfer Van Holmgren, one of his best friends. Holmgren stayed with Capan and his family during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I got in touch with coach Danna but wasn’t able to meet him in person, and I wasn’t able to have an official visit,” Capan said. “But I checked it out, and it was a good fit for me with some of the guys on the team.”
When the Eagles won the Auburn Intercollegiate, Capan relished sharing his victory with teammates. Austin Cherichella finished third, Madsen and Lucas Fallotico tied for seventh, Pierre Viallaneix tied for 39th and Jon Hopkins tied for 46th.
FGCU finished the season with a new program record 54-hole of the 832 and went 32-under par overall.
“I drew a lot of inspiration from Brady shooting a 64,” Capan said. “I thought, ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’ We were pretty stoked after doing that.”