The thrill of winning his first Nationwide Tour was nice for Alex Aragon. So was seeing the biggest check of his pro career after winning the TPC Stonebrae Championship earlier this month.
But one of the best things about the week just outside of San Francisco was who gave Aragon the trophy.
"One of my heroes growing up was Jerry Rice and for him to be there was cool," said Aragon, 33, who grew up in San Diego but has been a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fan his whole life. "I actually played with nine holes with him a few years ago and I mentioned that to him. He was nice enough to say he remembered but I doubt he did."
Aragon, a 2001 Stanford graduate, admits he's one of the grinders in pro golf who works hard, makes sure he's doing the right things to prepare for tournaments, and is usually a positive person. All of that came in handy when he fired rounds of 67-70-67-66 in the rain and fog-plagued TPC Stonebrae.
"It got a little crazy there and nobody really knew what was going in because of so many weather delays," Aragon said. "I just kind of let it all roll off my back and said whatever we need to do I'll do it."
There were times when Aragon thought the tournament would be reduced to 54 holes, but keeping his head down and playing paid rather large dividends.
"On Friday I hit one shot, and then play was called because of darkness," he said. "That's how crazy it was."
Earlier in his week of preparation Aragon went to Stanford to see old friends and former teammates associated with the golf program there. He spent time practicing at the golf facility and said it put him in a great frame of mind.
"It was pouring rain at the Stonebrae that Tuesday so I drove up and practiced and played a little at Stanford and it kind of calmed me a little bit," said Aragon, who had the biggest payday of his pro career in taking home $108,000.
Aragon is a veteran of the Nationwide Tour and he also has one season (2006) under his belt playing on the PGA TOUR. Through his 11 years of being a pro, he says he's learned plenty but it's until you are in those moments that you learn the most.
He hadn't been that close to a victory in a long time, but on that final Sunday at the TPC Stonebrae he was ready.
"We didn't have to re-pair after the third round to the fourth round and I think that was beneficial to me," Aragon said. "On Sunday I was just ready for anything and no matter what happened I was going to be positive about it."
There were times during the week where it was hard for Aragon to be positive. He locked his keys in his car trying to make it to his tee time on Thursday but because there was a fog delay he didn't miss his tee time.
If not for the fog delay, Aragon would have missed his tee time and would have been disqualified. "Obviously the fog helped me out there," he joked.
He also was trying to get his taxes done while on the road, and he lost his wallet while stopping to get gas.
Despite those bad omens, Aragon remained in a good frame of mind.
"I kept saying to myself all day I was going to win the tournament," he said. "...I didn't want to play with anything else on my mind."
Aragon says he's lost count of how many times he's been to q-school but figured it's probably nine or 10 times. And there were a lot of times in his career when he considered doing something else.
"I've thought about quitting a lot," he said. "But deep down I knew this is what I wanted to do."
After the biggest victory of his career he said he heard from a lot of friends he hadn't heard from in a long time. But he says the funniest voicemail he received was from one of his best friends.
"My one buddy said 'Hey, my computer must of broke because it says here that you won,'" Aragon said. "I couldn't help but laugh at that one."
One of the luxuries of winning is he's shopping for a new car. While he joked he was just breaking in his 1999 Ford Explorer with around 240,000 miles on it, he said it was time.
"I'm not used to spending any money," said Aragon who has made $110,000 in his PGA TOUR career in 34 starts.
Aragon is playing in just his second full season on the Nationwide Tour. He played in 16 tournaments in 2009 but has mostly gone through Monday qualifying or had partial status for some seasons.
Early in his career he played various mini-tours on the West Coast and had mild success.
"I just kind of found my way out there and learned as I went along," said Aragon who has played in 41 career Nationwide Tour tournaments with both of his top-10 finishes coming this season.
He doesn't have to worry about status anymore on the Nationwide Tour because he's exempt for the rest of this season and is in good shape to earn his TOUR card for next season. He's fourth on the money list heading into this week's South Georgia Classic in Valdosta, Ga.
One improvement Aragon has made is on his putting. He ranks fifth on the Nationwide Tour and despite missing the previous two cuts, came into the TPC Stonebrae rolling the ball pretty well.
"It hasn't changed my life or anything," Aragon said about the victory. "It's put me into position to where I feel I can get back to the PGA TOUR. It's a big confidence boost and it legitimizes my whole career so far."
John Dell has covered golf for the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina for the last 18 years. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. You can reach him at email@example.com.