Assistant Golf Coach Mario Castellanos (B.S. ’09) and his Sister, Andrea, Turn Pioneer Golf into a family affair
BY STEVE CONNOLLY & TODD PREPSKY
Long before they became Pioneers, Mario and Andrea Castellanos were destined to play golf. Barely old enough for kindergarten, they accompanied their father Jesus to the golf course, where he put clubs in their tiny hands. It started out of parental concern — Jesus wanted his kids to have a positive, constructive activity to which they could devote their energy.
“My dad used to say he would rather have us spending our time on grass than on concrete,” Mario recalls.
But as they grew up, golf turned into more than an extracurricular activity. Their father’s love of the game rubbed off on Mario and Andrea, and they started to get pretty good at it. When the Union City natives reached junior high, they began competing in youth tournaments all over Northern California.
By the time Mario was a senior at James Logan High School, he had dreams of making a career of golf. When he was recruited to play for Cal State East Bay, he was thrilled at the opportunity to stay close to home. And, as it turned out, Mario’s freshman year was also the golf team’s first season under Head Golf Coach Alan Sue.
When Mario entered Cal State East Bay as a freshman in 2005, he liked it so much he decided to stick around for a while. Mario played under Sue for four seasons, shining at times on the course and consistently as a student. He spent his last two years serving as president of CSUEB’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and he played a major role in Pioneer Athletics’ transition back to NCAA Division II and admittance into the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
Mario graduated in 2009 and immediately accepted an offer to stay with the team as a coach. He is now in his fifth year as the school’s assistant golf coach, and the top senior on the women’s team is someone he knows very well — his younger sister, Andrea, who decided to follow in her brother’s footsteps and attend CSUEB on a golf scholarship. It was the start of an outstanding four-year career for the younger Castellanos, but it almost never happened. In fact, there was a time when she wasn’t sure she’d ever be interested in golf again.
In 2008, Andrea’s and Mario’s mother, Reyna, passed away after a brave battle with breast cancer. The loss was particularly hard on the 16-year-old Andrea, and it kept her away from the golf course for nearly two years.
“It changed the way I looked at everything,” Andrea says. “But now I try not to take anything for granted.”
The Castellanos family had always been close, and losing their mother brought them even closer. Ultimately, it was Andrea’s desire to stay near her brother that led her to Cal State East Bay and back to golf.
“Mario and Andrea were raised by a great family,” says Coach Sue. “It has been a tremendous addition to our program that they chose to make East Bay their golf family.”
After serving as a volunteer for one year, Mario was brought on as a full-time coach and quickly developed a passion for working with student-athletes. Andrea, meanwhile, has spent the last four years as one of the team’s best and most consistent golfers. This past fall, Mario watched proudly as his sister was crowned the individual champion of the Sonoma State Invitational, her first career tournament title.
The 2013–14 Women’s Golf team has proven to be one of the best squads yet. This spring, they have claimed team championships at the Tim Tierney Pioneer Shootout — their home tournament — and the Otter Invitational, hosted by CSU Monterey Bay, accomplishments that Coach Sue and the squad can all be proud of.
But for Mario and Andrea Castellanos, it’s more than that. It’s the golf wisdom of their father, the memory of their mother, and the closeness they share as siblings and as teammates that has contributed to their success — truly a family affair.