Esteban Toledo is the embodiment of the immigrant success story, coming from a poverty-stricken section of Mexicali, Mexico, to eventually play on the PGA TOUR. Toledo served a stint as a boxer prior to making his way to the United States to pursue a professional golf career. He eventually won on the Web.com Tour, claiming the 2005 Lake Erie Charity Classic by two strokes over Jeff Gove. After more than two decades of splitting time between the Web.com Tour and the PGA TOUR, Toledo is now eligible for the Champions Tour and made his first start on the circuit two weeks ago at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn. He recently spent a few minutes with Champions Tour Media Official Phil Stambaugh, discussing his life, his future goals and his passion for charitable endeavors..
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What are your initial thoughts about playing the Champions Tour??
I'm really excited. I took two years off after playing nine straight years on both the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour. My wife and I sat down and talked about how we're going to do the Champions Tour. We talked about how important it is in my country to play good golf with still the best in the world. Every day we talked about it. We talked about how tough these guys are out here. It will be a wonderful experience for me to play and represent my country, myself and my fans. To finally be on the Champions Tour is just awesome. The players have really welcomed me. I've known 90 percent of them for so many years. They were joking around like they didn't think I was 50 yet.
When did you really start thinking about the Champions Tour??
Really about the last seven months. I started getting ready then. I had to get mentally ready. I know what I'm getting into. The guys are very, very competitive and very good. Perhaps it's fun on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but come Friday, these guys are very, very competitive and very good. It's like they are different people. They are very nice, but they are unbelievable players. Always have been and always will.
How about getting used to the course conditions on the Champions Tour? There were some long par 4s and par 5s at Rock Barn and the pin placements were tough. The course was in great shape. It's not as short out here as people think.
What do you watch on television? I watch quite a bit of golf. My television is on the Golf Channel almost exclusively.
Outside of golf, what's your favorite TV sport?? I still like watching some boxing.
As an ex-boxer, how do you assess the sport of boxing these days? It's coming around. I think the last two years have been fair for boxing. There have been some great stories lately about guys coming out of nowhere to succeed. An example would be the story of Argentinian boxer Sergio Martinez, the current middleweight champion who recently beat Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. I think when you're hungry, it means everything to anybody. It's fantastic to see.
Did you have a favorite boxer growing up?? I really liked Julio Cesar Chavez but probably the greatest of all time was Muhammad Ali. The determination between golfers and boxers is very similar because you get into The Zone. He was amazing.
What type of music do you enjoy listening to?? I like Spanish music but believe or not, I like Lady Gaga too.
Who would you love to trade places for a day with?? I'd trade with the president of my country for a day just to see what it's like under the gun.
Favorite team as a kid? The Mexican National Soccer Team.
Favorite athlete? It's Hugo Sanchez, a striker on the national team who also played for four teams in Europe.
First job you ever had? I was a bartender in Mexico. I grew up near this golf course and they asked me to be a bartender. I knew nothing about it but I took the job and it eventually allowed me to practice at the club after I finished working.
Favorite meal? I like a certain Mexican dish. It's a salad with salsa, rice and beans.
Favorite restaurant when you are on the road? I really cook for myself and don't like to go out and eat much. I also cook quite a bit for my family when I'm at home.
What's the one talent you'd most like to have? I wouldn't mind having Tiger Woods' talent.
Do you have some all-time favorite movies? Pretty Woman
What would your wife say is your worst habit? I never listen to her.
One course you've never played that you'd love to play?? Augusta National Golf Club
Most memorable vacation? I think when we went to Scotland in 2002. We went to all the castles the week before and then I went to the British Open qualifier and I made it into the field at Muirfield. That was the greatest vacation we ever had even though it was work for me.
What kind of car do you currently drive? I drive a Honda Ridgeline truck. I love that automobile.
Most memorable golf shot? My last shot at the PGA TOUR National Qualifying School in 1998 at Greenlefe (Fla.). I was off the green in three strokes and I had to chip it in for birdie to keep my TOUR card and I did it. Under pressure, that was the greatest shot of my life.
Favorite charity that you currently support? I'm involved with 25 kids in an orphanage in Mexicali and I provide them with food each week. I promised myself when I got on the Champions Tour that if I did well, I would do even more for them. It's a privilege for me to represent those kids. They are all wonderful and I'm playing for them. I'm going to help them have a better life.
When you stop playing golf, what will you do? When I quit playing golf, I'm going to help the PGA of Mexico run their tournaments better.
What's on your bucket list? 1) I want to secure my wife and children. 2) I want to help others and give back to those who helped me. 3) I want people to be recognize me as a good person.
You are an amazing success story. You came from a poor background and persevered to play professional golf at the highest level. Any advice you'd give kids starting out??
Every person should have a dream and goal in their lives. I really believe that if you work hard in what you do, it will eventually pay off. It doesn't matter what the profession, you can do it. My advice to anyone is to never give up. Keep working really hard. It's very important to have a great image because that is who you really are as a person.