SCOTTSDALE Ariz. — As much as the concept of quiet exists on a Saturday at TPC Scottsdale, it followed Nicolo Galletti. When he slid a birdie putt past the 14th hole, it earned only a wayward expletive from a fan who wanted to draw some laughs. When he slid another past the 15th, there was a customary groan, but not a personal one. No one, it seemed, knew who Galletti was, and why would they?
On Saturday afternoon, as he made his way around the WM Phoenix Open in anonymity, Galletti was ranked 1044th in the world. He had never played in a PGA Tour event. In 56 career tournaments across the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamerica and PGA Tour Canada, his total earnings added up to just $102,814. A finish in the top 65 would ensure this week as the most lucrative of his career.
So when Galletti walked into the stadium hole at 16, there were none of the “A-S-U” chants that Sun Devil golfers usually receive. If any fans even noticed the pitchfork on his golf bag, they kept it to themselves.
Galletti, though, was determined to change that. He’s been here before, in this crowd. The only year he missed the Open was in 2022, when he fell short in a playoff at the Monday qualifier and couldn’t stomach the idea of seeing the tournament live. Every other February, he’s made his way to TPC Scottsdale as a paying fan, just like everyone else. He knows what this is all about.
“Definitely wanted to pump them up,” Galletti said.
Even if no one knew his name, he figured he could do that with a marketing stunt, throwing headphones in the crowd as he walked towards the 16th green. That got the fans on Galletti’s side, and when he drained a 19-foot birdie putt, they erupted. Finally, someone even noticed his college allegiances. A group of four fans in American flag rompers — the type to arrive at 3:30 a.m. for their premium perch — yelled out ‘ASU baby’ and ‘Go Sun Devils.’
4 under on his back nine and two shots inside the projected cutline.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 10, 2024
What they didn’t know was that, with Galletti’s birdie, everything changed. He was excited to play to the fans, but also to flip the switch on his own fortunes. The putt gave him a three-stroke buffer to the cut line, enough to all but ensure his tournament would go on. By the end of the round, he was still at 4 under, in a tie for 34th.
It would be a moment out of an aspiring PGA Tour pro’s dreams, except that the past few years have been so turbulent and so busy that Galletti hasn’t had time for dreaming.
“This is always what I thought I would be doing for my life,” he said, but even in college, it was difficult to know what path that would take. “I was struggling pretty good,” Galletti said, recalling an ASU career that only featured four top-10 finishes in as many years.
Meanwhile, his senior year roommate at The Hub, across from Sun Devil Stadium, was the No. 1 amateur in the world. Ticketed for green jackets and multi-million dollar paydays. Some guy named Jon Rahm.
The two were best friends, a pair of soccer fans with southern European connections. Rahm is from the Basque Country in northern Spain; Galletti’s father moved to the U.S. from Italy. On his collegiate bio, he listed his dream historical sporting event not as a bygone Masters or U.S. Open, but as Italy’s triumph at the 2006 World Cup.
They talked about all of that, and everything else roommates talk about. To this day, they’re still good friends. This week, Rahm has been texting him with a steady stream of advice, most of it focused on staying calm amid the hysteria.
But even back at ASU, long before Rahm ditched the PGA Tour for LIV Golf, the notion of playing together on big stages was never discussed.
“We were a couple different levels back then,” Galletti said with a laugh. “Which we still are now,” he added, as if that fact were easy to forget.
This season may be the most promising of Galletti’s career — his performance in DP World Tour Q-School last year earned him a card for that circuit — but it’s still not easy. His last event was the Mauritius Open. His next event will be back in that part of the world, two weeks from now at the Kenya Open.
“Definitely don’t have the biggest bank account right now,” Galletti said. “But it is what it is. This week will be nice.”
That’s especially true in contrast to where he’s come from. In 2019 — three years after he graduated from ASU, with his golf career still on the ground floor — he suffered an almost impossible string of injuries. There was a torn oblique that sidelined him for months, followed by a broken wrist when he was sitting on a bag stand that collapsed. As soon as the wrist healed, a friend fell into his leg at Rahm’s wedding, causing a sprained ankle.
Unable to play golf or do much exercise of any kid, Galletti added 40 pounds. “In my golfing career,” he said, “that was definitely the toughest time.”
It would have been easy to see the injuries as a sign to call it quits and to use his degree for a calmer career. Instead, they reminded him how much he needed the game.
“I just like golf a lot,” Galletti said. “I don’t really know what else I would do, to be honest.”
During the pandemic, he found a home on the Outlaw Tour, a pay-to-play circuit that got a financial boost from gamblers desperate for action. A few good weeks there helped him gain a foothold on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, where he played 11 events in 2022. That turned into a summer run on the PGA Tour Canada last year.
By contrast, this year is steady. But it’s not really steady. Galletti knows that. Regular events on the PGA Tour — ones that don’t require a playoff in the Monday qualifier — are still a long way away.
The solution, as he sees it, is to enjoy the present. Wherever it leads.