That birdie putt Kapalua head pro Michael Castillo made in September is paying more dividends than he ever imagined.
Castillo won the Aloha Section PGA Championship with a birdie on the final hole, which got him into the Sony Open. He made his PGA Tour debut at age 60, a few months after radiation for cancer that returned to his liver.
Now he’s off to the PGA Tour Champions this week in Arizona.
“I’m living the club pro’s dream,” Castillo said before leaving for the Cologuard Classic in Tucson, where he received a sponsor exemption.
This exemption was a surprise, but it’s a good fit.
Exact Science Corp. produces Cologuard, a noninvasive screening test for colorectal cancer and precancer. Cologuard has been the name of the tournament since it began in 2015.
Castillo was first diagnosed about five years ago with colon cancer, which was detected through a home screening test.
Michael Castillo, 60, the head golf professional at Kapalua Golf’s Plantation Course and a colon cancer survivor, has been awarded a sponsor exemption to compete in the 2023 Cologuard Classic by Exact Sciences in March at Omni Tucson National Resort in Tucson, Ariz. pic.twitter.com/Y60xqcXMf0
— Troon (@Troon) February 27, 2023
“It wasn’t theirs, but it was a product for early detection,” he said. “That’s what they do, and that’s what helped me get on this cancer thing earlier rather than later.”
Like other players, he will be representing a cancer survivor during the tournament.
Castillo will be in a field that includes Bernhard Langer going for his record 46th career PGA Tour Champions victory, along with other major champions who played the old PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Poipu Bay when Castillo was the head pro at the Kauai resort.
Castillo missed the cut at the Sony Open, though he met his goal of 36 holes without anything worse than a bogey and no three-putts.
He is playing both pro-am days at Omni Tucson National, and he is guaranteed 54 holes because there is no cut on the PGA Tour Champions.
“Without the worry about a cut, I can just freewheel a little bit,” he said. “I try not to worry about what my fellow competitors are doing, but they were 50-plus (yards) in front of me at the Sony. I don’t think this week will be the same. I’ll be somewhere in the same zip code as the best Champions Tour guy.”
As for that club pro’s dream? In a span of six months, Castillo will have competed in the Senior Professional National Championship, the PGA Tour, the PGA Tour Champions and the Professional National Championship, where the top 20 club pros earn a spot in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.