While he was starting to play as a regular player on the PGA Tour at the end of last year, Jose de Jesus Rodriguez was often asked when he was nervous before he was in. engage on the course. After all, it was the grandest stage of golf with the biggest stars and even at age 37, Rodriguez was a newcomer.
He then described his journey and how he had arrived there: About the days in central Mexico where he found himself without food, the dirt floor on which he slept in an adobe hut before crossing the Rio Great to the United States where he could not swim.
Sometimes he recounted how, after a decade of hard work in the United States, he returned to Mexico and began playing golf competitively. But the game was relatively easy, largely because of what he had already overcome.
No, he said, he was not worried about changing clubs, even on the PGA tour.
"If I was not afraid to go through the unfair trials to get here – across the river, through all that I had to endure to get to this point, it will not be scary anymore. now, "he said. an interpreter.
In the California desert this week, Rodriguez will compete in his seventh tournament of the season at the PGA West Desert Classic and La Quinta Country Club. He finished 57th at the Sony Open in Hawaii and has been selected four times.
Considering that he did not play golf between the ages of 15 and 25 when he lived in the United States and that he comes from a city with a golf course of 18 holes, Rodriguez is perhaps one of the most improbable successes of the game.
"To be honest, I feel so happy just because it was like a dream come true," he said.
The dream did not start with aspirations to play on the Tour. Rodriguez had a simpler idea of what he wanted for himself, his seven siblings and his parents.
Second oldest, he is responsible for helping the family out of poverty. Harvesting corn in the fields of Irapuato provided a lean return. He had heard that if he could go to the United States, there was money to be made.
He took a bus and hitchhiked nearly 100 km north of Nuevo Laredo, located on the northeastern border of Mexico. He plunged into the river and found himself unscathed in the United States after dozens of previous attempts took him under the guard of border patrol agents.
Rodriguez went to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and worked as an undocumented park warden at the Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club. It was in 1996 and Rodriguez was hardly a teenager. He worked six and sometimes seven days a week, often from dawn to dusk, learning the course and developing a love for the game by meticulously caring for every inch of the course.
He worked there for years while sleeping on the floor of an apartment rented by colleagues. He would pay a few hundred dollars to his parents for each pay check.
After a decade away from home, between Stonebridge Meadows and the Territory Golf & Country Club in Duncan, Oklahoma, he returns home to Mexico. He was 25 years old and his family had turned the one-room cabin into a family home with two two-story homes with the thousands of dollars Rodríguez had sent home over the years.
He began attending the local course and took away the bag of Alfonso Vallejo Esquivel, a wealthy local who worked in the pharmaceutical industry. Esquivel was impressed by Rodriguez's understanding of the course and the game. So he bought a club membership for him and asked him to play alongside him and offer pointers. Rodriguez obliged.
Esquivel offered to sponsor him at tournaments across the Americas, where Rodríguez began to turn heads. He won his first event in Puebla in 2008 and started the junior tour shortly thereafter. He and his wife, Bianca, had welcomed two children and golf was becoming a realistic career project.
He started playing on the Web.com tour in 2014 at age 33 and finished twice in the top 10.
"He is a tough competitor," said Tour professional Scott Langley. "What I love most about his game is his driving. He has a very smooth golf swing.
Over the years, he has participated in a handful of events on the PGA Tour by means of invitations and exemptions before becoming a regular last year, starting with by the Safeway Open in Napa, California, in October. In all, he had 14 PGA starts, including six this season. In these events, he made the cut four times and made $ 62,244.
"He has a really strong game," said Canadian pro David Hearn. "You can say that he's a more veteran player for someone who's a beginner here." You can tell he's playing a little bit of a fight, it's a bit homemade, but his short game and the way he manages to put the ball in the hole are fantastic.
"Maybe that's a bit of the road he's had for the PGA Tour."
Rodriguez understands that he plays for more than himself. He often hears that others tell him that he is inspired by his ability to move from nothingness to the highest level of professional golf.
"I am an example for people to know that you can really define your goals and truly aspire to be something and reach them," he said. "It just gives me an extra reason to keep pushing harder and being better every day."