Fred Biondi has found a system that works, and it has helped boost him to another level in the game.
Biondi improved his scoring average at the University of Florida by more than two strokes (from 72.3 to 70.1) between his sophomore and junior years, and in June he qualified for his first major championship, the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
On Monday, he posted a 1-under-par 69 at stroke-play co-host Arcola Country Club in his U.S. Amateur Championship debut. His second stroke-play round was Tuesday afternoon at The Ridgewood Country Club, where he hopes to be among the 64 players to qualify for match play.
“It’s a bunch of little things that add up to be one big one,” said Biondi, 21, of Brazil, who was introduced to the game at age 4 when he played on a 12-hole golf course built by his grandfather, Nelson Biondi, outside Sao Paolo. “About a year ago, I started working on things that I should have worked on before, a lot of short-game stuff. I feel like what I’m doing are unique things that happen to work for me.”
Biondi is unique in that few world-class golfers hail from Brazil. His grandfather’s course no longer exists, but he stayed connected to golf via weekly lessons at Sao Paolo Golf Club from age 8 to 14, which is when he took the giant leap to Florida, where he enrolled at the Club Med Academies (now Altitude Academies) in Port St. Lucie.
“I moved to America with the idea of staying six months, and after that, I asked my parents if I could stay the whole year,” said Biondi, who is No. 27 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®. “Then I asked them if I could stay for good. They supported me, and now here I am.”
Biondi came to the University of Florida’s attention by winning back-to-back Florida Junior Amateur titles (2016-17), and he has also competed in four Latin America Amateur Championships (LAAC), making the cut in each of them and finishing in a four-way tie for second to Aaron Jarvis of the Cayman Islands last January at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic.
Biondi redshirted his first semester at Florida in the spring of 2019, but he has been an important part of the Gators’ nationally ranked squad ever since. This summer, he also helped the 24-player International side of collegians – 12 men and 12 women – to victory in the prestigious Palmer Cup Matches, going 2-0-2 at Golf Club of Geneva in Switzerland.
“It means a lot to me to represent Brazil and South America,” said Biondi, who tries to get home twice a year. “Golf is not a big sport in Brazil, so I feel like anything I do can make a big impact.”
Biondi’s meteoric rise includes his placement at the top of the PGA Tour University preseason rankings for the 2022-23 year, based on points earned through college, elite amateur and professional events. The top five players at the end of the college season in 2023 will earn places on the Korn Ferry Tour. Pierceson Coody of the University of Texas, a member of the victorious 2021 USA Walker Cup Team, topped the list at the end of 2021-22 and went on to win on the Korn Ferry Tour in his third start in late June.
Before any professional aspirations, Biondi hopes to make a run this week at Ridgewood, where the two finalists earn spots in next year’s U.S. Open at The Los Angeles Country Club and likely invitations to the 2023 Masters, and the champion also earns an exemption into The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
“It’s a great golf course – the main thing is to drive it in the fairway because the rough is really going to penalize you,” said Biondi, whose assistant coach, Dudley Hart, a two-time PGA Tour winner and Gator alumnus, is caddieing for him this week. “Getting to match play is the main thing; that’s the hardest part of this event, to be honest with you.”
Biondi has received support and counsel from another Florida alumnus, seven-time PGA Tour winner Billy Horschel, who was a four-time All-America player for the Gators and shot a 60 in the 2006 U.S. Amateur at stroke-play co-host Chaska (Minn.) Town Course. Biondi played a practice round with Horschel at The Country Club in June, as well as with 2018 LAAC champion and two-time Tour winner Joaquin Niemann and Mito Perreira, both of Chile. Perreira finished in a tie for third in the PGA Championship in May at Southern Hills.
“It was a great experience to play with all those guys who I looked up to growing up,” said Biondi, who shot 79-73 to miss the cut at Brookline. “I learned a bunch and took a lot from the experience for sure.”
One of Biondi’s mantras is to not overcomplicate things.
“I try to keep it very simple,” he said. “No matter how well I play tomorrow or the next day, I’ll go back home and work on the things I have found that work for me. That’s what I’m gonna do.”
If the system is working, there’s no reason not to stay the course.
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.