Mexico’s Raúl Pereda ready for 'home game' on first trip to Final Stage of PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry
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Raúl Pereda pega su tiro de salida en el hoyo 12 durante la segunda ronda del Jalisco Open GDL 2023 en Guadalajara, México. (Gregory Villalobos/PGA TOUR Americas)
Written by Gregory Villalobos @PGATOURAmericas
If you tuned in to watch the PGA TOUR’s Mexico Open at Vidanta last April, there’s no chance you could have missed this guy. Following an opening 6-under 65, he posted back-to-back 70s in Round 2 and 3 with shots that made it into all the highlight reels. His finest was a hole-out eagle from 249 yards at the difficult par-4 16th in Round 2, and the other was a tee shot that landed within tap-in distance at the par-4 seventh in Round 3. He was making his PGA TOUR debut courtesy of a sponsor exemption.
Raul Pereda's incredible 305-yard tee shot to 22-inches at Mexico Open
It was Raúl Pereda, a 27-year-old from Cordoba, Veracruz, a city located 180 miles east of Mexico City. A PGA TOUR Latinoamérica player for the past four seasons, Pereda is back on the radar as one of 168 players who will be playing for PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry Tour status next week in Final Stage of PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry.
A Jacksonville, Florida, resident since he signed up to play collegiate golf at Jacksonville University in 2014, Pereda will have the benefit of playing a home game. Final Stage of PGA TOUR Q-School will be contested at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course and Sawgrass Country Club, which means only a 25-minute drive away from his home.
“I just love it here,” said the five-year pro about life in Jacksonville. “The Valley Course was my home course in college, and we also played a lot at Sawgrass Country Club. I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario, making Final Stage for the first time at two courses I’m quite familiar with.”
Played over 72 holes Dec. 14-17, Final Stage provides a career-changing opportunity. It will award PGA TOUR cards for the top five and ties and Korn Ferry Tour guaranteed starts for the next 40 and ties.
Pereda has spent his career on the Mexican Tour, where he became the first amateur to win a tournament two days before his 18th birthday in 2014, and on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, where he recorded 11 top 10s in 42 career starts. Although his 22nd-place finish on the Latin American Points List this past season secured him 2024 PGA TOUR Americas status, he would rather skip the new Tour. “I don’t hold anything against it, but I just have bigger aspirations,” says Pereda.
“Heading into this year’s Q-School, one day, I stood in front of a mirror, and I said to myself, ‘It doesn’t matter if you don’t make it. You have tried for the past four years, so if you don’t make it, you’ll give it another try next year, so you just keep trying.’ That thought process calmed me down a lot, and I was able to take things day by day,” he said of his approach to Second Stage, which he played last week in Valencia, California.
Tied for 22nd through 54 holes, three shots outside the top 13 and ties who would advance, Pereda knew he didn’t need anything crazy on the final day this past Friday.
“The weather was tough; it was very windy, and the greens were already quite firm. I went out to play with a lot of determination, I had to man up,” he said about a hard-fought final round of 72 that included one birdie, one bogey and 16 pars on a day the 19 guys who made it through combined for a scoring average of 73.57 strokes.
One shot outside the number by the time he finished, Pereda needed a bit of help. Fortunately for him and four other players, the nail-biting game ended when William Mouw and Alex Chiarella each bogeyed the par-5 18th late in the day to move the cut line to 1-under.
With this year’s Final Stage providing PGA TOUR access for the first time since 2012, Pereda knows what’s at stake. His taste of life on TOUR at the Mexico Open at Vidanta was eye-opening last April.
Raul Pereda holes out for eagle from 249 yards at Mexico Open
“The Mexico Open experience was amazing, and I have no regrets about the way it ended because I learned a lot that week,” recalls Pereda, who was tied for 17th before a final-round 76 made him slip down into a tie for 60th.
Such a memorable event led to a bit of a hangover, with Pereda going back to the reality of the feeder tours. He hung in there to record four top 10s on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and secure a valuable Second Stage exemption that got him to where he is today.
“To be honest, it was hard to handle," said the former Jacksonville University golfer. "Playing a PGA TOUR tournament was a goal of mine. I knew I had the talent to perform at the highest level, but once it was over the question was, ‘What now?’ I felt kind of deflated and it cost me a lot emotionally and mentally, but I got out of that mental bump. Now, I feel ready to put on a fight for a PGA TOUR card next week.”
TUNE IN TO WATCH: Saturday, Dec. 16: 12:30-4:30 p.m. ET (Peacock), 2:30-4:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Sunday, Dec. 17: 12:30-4:30 p.m. ET (Peacock), 1:30-4:30 p.m. (Golf Channel)