At a time in life when for most playing golf is no more than a weekend pastime or a late afternoon luxury, Belleville native Phil Caravia is the exception to the rule.
A financial advisor with Edward Jones in Swansea, Caravia is in a profession with a flexible work schedule which allows him the freedom to pursue his passion of playing golf.
And do it at a very high level.
A premier player in the St. Louis area for the past several years, the 36-year-old Caravia captured the biggest win of his amateur career when he won the prestigious Old Warson Cup at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis on May 3 and 4.
One of the early season tournament put on by the Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association, the Old Warson Cup is a grueling two-day match-play event which features the top 16 players in the MAGA's point standings from the previous year.
Seeded third, Caravia defeated fifth-seeded Alex Cusumano of St. Louis in 19 holes for the title.
"Actually, I was thinking I was going to play Skip Berkmeyer in the final. But it's not really a surprise that I played Alex. He's a great young player who had beaten me the last couple of times we had played,'' Caravia said. "It was a long weekend and a lot of golf. But it was well worth it. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come this year.''
The win is the third in the past three years for Caravia, who won the 2012 East Side Amateur at Belk Park Golf Course in Wood River and in 2013 claimed a Missouri Golf Association event in Jefferson City, Mo.
Caravia also placed second in the Metropolitan Amateur Championship a year ago, losing to Kansas State University senior Kyle Weldon in the final.
"I had been close. I had been knocking on the door,'' Caravia said. "The difference for me has been that I started working with (PGA teaching professional) Randy Phillips again.
"I just went back to the fundamentals. The things he told me to do 20 years ago when I was a teenager are the same exact things guys on the PGA Tour -- including Tiger Woods -- are doing right now. Randy Phillips is that good of a teaching professional. I honestly believe that he's the reason I'm playing the way I am right now.''
Caravia has long been a top player in the St. Louis area.
The 1995 Class 2A state champion while playing for Belleville West, Caravia went on to play at the University of Mississippi, where he twice qualified for the NCAA Division I national tournament.
Now after establishing himself in his career, Caravia has the passion and desire to work and improve his overall game.
"The last three years I've seen a progression in a level of consistency in my ball-striking that is really good,'' Caravia said. "I'm looking for some good things to happen. If we (Phillips and Caravia) continue to work together, and I'm sure we will, I really think my game will continue to get better. I'm really excited.''
With his wife Sara Caravia volunteering to be his caddy for the weekend, Caravia posted two routine wins on the first day.
After defeating Brian Lovett 4 and 2 in his first match, Caravia defeated Garrett Sneed 4 and 3 in the quarterfinals.
"The first round-match against Brian, I didn't feel like either one of us played that well and so I was just happy to get a win. I had about 45 minutes between matches so I went out to the (practice) range to see if I could find it,'' Caravia said. "I found it. I played very well and hit it about as well as I had in a long time in the quarterfinal.
"It had been a long day and the semifinals were set for 7 a.m. on Sunday, so we went out for dinner and I was asleep before sunset.''
The semifinals featured a rematch with Weldon.
A two-time United States Amateur qualifier, Weldon put up a fight before falling to Caravia 1-up.
"It was close all the way, but I don't think I ever trailed,'' Caravia said. "I always enjoy competing against Kyle, because the kid is a class act. He's got a great future.''
Cusumano, who is the son of St. Louis radio and television personality Frank Cusumano, defeated top-seed Berkmeyer 2 and 1 in the semifinal, setting the stage for a memorable final.
Both Caravia and Cusumano played well throughout.
Cusumano was 2-up after 12 holes, when Caravia had a little talk with himself.
"There is a big hill that you have to walk up from the 12th green to the 13th tee and I used that time to collect myself a little bit,'' Caravia said. "I felt the 13th hole was do or die. It's a tough par-3 and I hit it within 5-6 feet and made my putt to get back within one (hole)."
A second birdie on No. 16 drew Caravia even and after halving holes 17 and 18, the match headed to sudden death.
It didn't take long. Playing the playoff hole to perfection, Caravia made a routine par and when Cusumano failed to get up and down from the back of the green and made bogey, Caravia had the victory.
"I guess I gave a little fist pump,'' Caravia said. "It's a great way to start my year. Hopefully it's a sign of good things to come."