Scholar Stories: De Col’s Love of Golf, Finance Lead Him from Turin to U-M
Continuing the series that began in 2016-17, each Wednesday MGoBlue.com will highlight a Michigan student-athlete and their academic pursuits. These are our Scholar-Athlete Stories, presented by Absopure.
By Emma Levine
Growing up in Turin, Italy, Pier Francesco De Col started playing golf out of sheer convenience. He lived right next to a golf course.
“When I was 7, I was outside riding my bike every day and there was this golf course. I said to my parents, ‘Can we try?'” he said. “My father and I started playing together, and it was very nice. Living on a golf course was such a fortune being young and in high school. Even though I had something else going on during the day, I was able to put in two hours of work. I rode my bike, put in a few hours of work and went home. It was very cool, and I was very lucky to have that opportunity.”
This after-school hobby panned out well for De Col, a rising star on the University of Michigan men’s golf team who started five of seven events in his COVID-19 shortened rookie year. Now, he is a year older and a year wiser, studying business administration at the prestigious Ross School of Business.
“Coming from Italy, I wasn’t really too aware of the American system, so when I was looking at colleges, I was really basing it on rankings, both for athletics and academics,” De Col said. “Michigan really stood out for every ranking that I was looking at. It was a good program for LSA, it was a very good program for the business school, and it was a Division I team that I saw a lot of potential in. It really came down to those three factors, and it made my choice very easy.”
Within the Ross School of Business, De Col says he is focusing on finance, an interest initially sparked on the golf course.
“As a golfer, I spent a lot of time during my teenage years playing with adults,” he said. “During all of these rounds, spending hours and hours together, we would often talk about what their jobs looked like, what they are doing on a daily basis. I was lucky enough to play with many people who worked in finance that explained their jobs to me. I found it very interesting. Going on, I read a few books and started keeping up with the news and I started to understand that it was something that I would love to pursue in academics as well.”
A 2020 U-M Athletic Academic Achievement Award recipient, De Col counts himself lucky to be able to study something he loves at such a prestigious business school.
“I think that finance is really a core industry. Every industry is related somehow to finance,” he said. “I think that’s really fascinating and something I really love studying about. Being able to study that at Ross has been an amazing opportunity. I’m able to study with amazing people that push me to get better every day, so that’s definitely a nice challenge that I love doing.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, De Col spent the fall semester at home, taking his classes remotely and finding his own ways to train for the upcoming golf season.
“It was a big change from my first year at Michigan when we were playing here together every day,” he said. “Over the fall, the weather was really good back home [in Italy]. COVID was down so I was able to play a few tournaments over the summer, and it was really nice to also be able to still practice with my high school friends. That’s definitely something that I wasn’t planning on doing, but since we were all back home, it was nice to keep practicing and play a few more times.”
De Col said it was hard being away from his teammates this past fall, especially after the abrupt end to their 2020 season.
“We had a tournament over the weekend, and then days later we came back here ready to start for the next tournament, and we found out the season had been canceled,” he said. “So definitely it was very hard, but I think looking back it’s really another lesson you can learn.
“You really have to not take any moments for granted. We didn’t place very well in the tournament and we did not enjoy it as much as we should, now knowing it was going to be our last tournament of the year. So I think that’s a really good learning experience we can take on for the next years and forever. In life, we should really enjoy whatever we’re doing. Of course, winning is better than placing fifth or something, but you have to remember that you’re still playing golf which is something you enjoy doing.”
De Col said he has taken that lesson to heart and is truly trying to soak up every moment with his teammates this season. It looks to be a year full of opportunity for the Wolverines, with a shortened schedule still leaving lots of room for them to make noise on the national stage.
“The goal of the whole team is to make it to the postseason. Of course, this is going to be a weird five tournaments compared to the usual 10, but I think if we play well, it’s something that’s within our range.”
No matter how the season plays out, De Col is excited to be back in Ann Arbor doing what he loves with his teammates.
“Something I really love about college sports is being able to work as a team at an individual sport,” he said. “When you’re working on the team, you’re doing a lot more team drills and playing and challenging each other in mini tournaments every day. That’s something definitely better than just practicing alone. It’s been good coming back together and practicing together for tournaments. I think it’s definitely going to make us play better.”
— to mgoblue.com