Ryan Chartrand

Brycen Wagner has the most interesting picture on GoPoly.com. Not a typical golfer with pleated plaid pants and a polo shirt, he looks like he jumped straight out of the late 1970s with golf clubs in hand. If he had theme music following him during tournaments, it would most likely be classic rock.

Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Wagner, 23, got a late start to his golfing career, having picked up the sport when he was 13.

“To be honest, I started golfing after I watched ‘Happy Gilmore,’ ” Wagner says. “It changed my life.”

“Happy Gilmore” is a comedy about a hockey player (played by Adam Sandler) who becomes a golfer.

At first glance, Wagner seems to have the persona of a surfer, with his laid-back presence and enthusiasm for life. He experimented with skateboarding, surfing and – naturally – hockey before discovering golf as his passion.

“At the course I played in Santa Barbara, Freddy Couples was a member, and I used to see him around, and he really motivated me to be a better golfer,” Wagner says. “I really looked up to him.”

Wagner’s favorite part of golfing is the freedom of being outdoors.

“It’s a game that you can do by yourself or with others, but it is laid-back and the people make it such a great atmosphere,” he explains.

Wagner feels his greatest strength in golfing is his consistency.

“I really feel that I am a steady and even golfer,” he says.

Entering Monday’s Big West Conference Championships at Tijeras Creek Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Wagner’s 73.7 average was second for the Mustangs, and his four top-20 finishes and two top-10 finishes were both team highs.

At the 14-team Cal Poly Men’s Intercollegiate at Cypress Ridge Golf Course in Arroyo Grande on March 27 to 28, he took first place individually by carding 71s in three consecutive rounds for a three-under-par 213 total. His performance led the Mustangs to top honors in the team category as well, with a seven-over-par 871 total.

Wagner tied for 18th at the conference championships, finishing with a 221 total upon carding a 72 in Tuesday’s final round en route to an All-Big West Second Team selection.

Cal Poly, the 2006 Big West champion, finished seventh amongst eight teams.

“I don’t make the highest numbers but I don’t screw up, either,” Wagner says. “Golfing is all about reacting to the shots, and nothing in school like math or science can really prepare you for the game – you just play.”

Wagner’s family often has come to see him play and supports what he wants to do. He is a social sciences senior, unsure about his post-graduation plans, but would like to keep playing.

“I would really love to go pro in golf, but that’s a hard career to take,” Wagner says. “I just have to take that step and give it a shot.”

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