Darrin Jones hadn't coached a pair of brothers during his first 12 years as head coach of the Ashland University men's golf team.
"It's clear that they care about each other more than their other teammates," Jones said. "You see an interesting dynamic where they're more supportive of each other and more competitive with each other at the same time. I think that's something unique that you're only going to get with siblings."
Frank, a redshirt sophomore majoring in accounting and finance, had to prove himself before becoming an Eagle. He graduated from Westlake High School in Westlake in 2014. He transferred there after spending his first three years at Copley High School in Akron because their father, also named Frank, relocated for work.
"The first time I talked to coach Jones," Frank said, "he told me that he'd see how my scores turn out during my senior year. He told me to talk to him when it was over."
In their first season as golfers at Westlake, the Steffen brothers led the team to the district championship for the first time in 10 years. The team consisted of Frank, a senior; Patrick, a sophomore; and three freshmen. In that season, Frank broke the school record for lowest nine-hole score (33) and lowest 18-hole score (71). He was named first-team all-league and was an all-district honorable mention.
"After my senior year," Frank said, "coach Jones told me to come down for a visit."
After Frank went onto Ashland, Patrick, a freshman majoring in finance, had two years left at Westlake. He went on to win sectionals as an individual as a junior and senior. In both seasons, he led the team to districts, and he'd break Frank's 18-hole school record by shooting a 69 at sectionals.
"I told coach that my brother is a player. He's going to be good," Frank said. "I told coach I'll let Patrick know that we're interested, but I said I wasn't going to let me being his brother push him to come here."
Patrick garnered interest from a handful of Division I schools. In the end, his decision would come down to Ashland and D-I St. Bonaventure University in Bonaventure, N.Y. And despite Frank's plan to let him decide for himself, Patrick knew exactly why he wanted to come to Ashland.
"Frank was the main reason I came here," Patrick said. "Our parents like it because Frank can watch over me. It's convenient for them because they can watch tournaments without having to drive one weekend to New York and one weekend to Michigan."
Their father was born and raised in Germany and went on to play professional soccer there.
He, as well as their mother, Gladys, had Frank and Patrick out on the golf course taking lessons by the time that they were between three and six years old. And about eight years ago, they both began playing golf competitively.
Both brothers confirmed that there were physical altercations on the golf course when they were younger. But now, the two of them use that competitiveness to their advantage.
"There's that competitive nature where you can tell they want to beat each other," Jones said. "They're out at the tournaments wanting to know what each other's shooting."
The Steffens have started for the Eagles in each of the first three tournaments this fall. Through seven rounds of golf, Patrick is averaging 74.9, and Frank is averaging a 76. Patrick has placed in at least the top 31 percent of the field at each tournament.
"Since Day 1, we've always pushed each other," Patrick said. "That's how we've been able to excel and get better as people and as student-athletes. We always want the best for each other."
As a redshirt freshman, Frank earned Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference All-Academic Excellence honors (cumulative grade-point average of 3.50-4.00).
"We push each other," Frank said. "But we're also extremely competitive with each other. We want to go out and beat each other, but afterwards we give each other a hug and shake hands. We're still brothers at the end of the day."
The team's tournaments this season have ranged from 53 to 282 miles away from Ashland, allowing the brothers to bond with each other as well as their teammates.
"This is a completely new experience," Patrick said. "It's a lot of fun because our team this year has created a great bond. We have good chemistry. I think that's a reason why we've become so successful."
The team, which has a 12-man roster consisting of one senior and two juniors, has placed second, third and eighth in its three tournaments. The Eagles also received votes in a recent Division II coaches' poll.
"Our team is young," Frank said. "When we reach our potential, we're going to be really good."
Ashland University men's golf last reached a regional tournament in 2014 and nationals in 1979, but the first three tournaments of 2016-17 have given Frank high hopes.
"I think a good goal this year would be making it to the postseason and making it to super regionals," Frank said. "Going forward, I think we can make it to the postseason every year. And by the time I'm done, I think we can make a really good run at nationals. It's very realistic."