Player's Take: Alex Chiarella
Discusses growing up in Hawaii, using one ball last week and more
June 25, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Alex Chiarella earned his first Mackenzie Tour victory at the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open. (Zenon Andryo/Mackenzie Tour)
It was certainly not the start to the Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada season that Alex Chiarella was looking for. But after last week’s win at the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open, Chiarella can’t wait for what the rest of the season has in store.
The University of San Diego alum captured his first Mackenzie Tour event Sunday by one shot after four rounds in the 60’s left him at 20-under for the week.
He had come into the season confident after finishing third at his Q-School site, but missed the first three cuts of the season. His goals changed then, but they’ve changed again after last week’s victory – which catapulted him into The Five.
The native of Hawaii spent a few minutes with PGA TOUR Digital chatting about his upbringing in paradise, how he got into golf and how he managed to – somehow – play all 72 holes in Lethbridge with the same golf ball.
It was more of a mental mindset last week more than anything technically or physically in my golf game. Honestly, my game felt like it was almost there, I just wasn’t producing the scores and wasn’t getting good breaks here and there. My game didn’t feel that off. I felt like I was close. I kept saying that to my friends and my family. I was like, ‘you guys… I’m really close. I feel like it’ll click with another week.’ I had that positivity rolling forward, even after three missed cuts. I kept my head up. That was the biggest difference going into this last week – that confidence to know I could turn things around.
My confidence level is probably higher than any other week this year for sure. I’m feeling very confident. I hit the ball extremely well last week. The game feels like it’s in a really good place right now.
In the past I’ve worked with Jay Brunza. He’s a sports physiologist who worked with Tiger Woods when he was an amateur. I got hooked up with him in college, through one of my coaches. I’ve worked with him in the past and I use a few of his tools to help me work on my mental game. It’s a lot of talking to yourself.
I talk a lot to myself on the golf course. Even out loud. I’ll be walking down the fairway and I’ll have a personal chat with to pump myself up or calm myself down, depending on the situation. That has helped a lot.
It’s the first time I’ve ever played four rounds with the same ball and it might be the first time anyone has ever done that since the olden days. I teed up a Titleist “1” with a blue line and two blue dots on it on the first tee of the tournament, played seven holes (we had that long rain delay so only seven holes on Thursday) and woke up on Friday, finished my round with that (same) ball. I had only an hour until my next tee time for the second round, so I teed up the same ball for that round. I was 11-under through two rounds. I looked at my buddy who I was staying with that night and said, ‘Man I have some good mojo with this ball. Would that be weird to keep this going on the weekend?’ and he said, ‘No dude, tee it up tomorrow.’ There were a few scuffs on it, so I did it. I played with it on Saturday and I asked him the same question on Saturday night, and he’s like, ‘Dude, there is no way you’re putting the ball out the bag. Tee that thing up in the morning.’ And so that’s what I did.
Shout-out Titleist. I don’t know if they’d like that. Would they sell more golf balls or less golf balls that way?
I grew up in Hawaii. I was there for 18 years through high school and then went to college at the University of San Diego for four years. I graduated but fell in love with the city and I’ve been in San Diego ever since.
I was shopping around a little bit, but I had committed to college really early. I committed about halfway through my junior year. That’s early for most recruits. Tim Mickelson was the coach (of the University of San Diego) at the time, Phil’s brother. He recruited me early and one of my friends who also grew up in Hawaii was also playing at the University of San Diego. They had a great program going. They had just made it to nationals. (My friend) called me a few times and said he really felt USD was a good fit for me. Great coach. Great program. That’s when Tim reached out to me and I committed early.
I enjoyed my time there. But, the golf program took a bit of a downward turn. They were a top-10 program in the country when I committed, but when I finished they were ranked about 150th. But, I enjoyed it. We didn’t quite get the star recruits. Tim Mickelson left to go to Arizona State University the year before I got there, but I enjoyed the University of San Diego, I enjoyed college golf, and I enjoyed San Diego itself – there were a lot of positives.
Hawaii is awesome. I wouldn’t change anything, and I loved growing up in Hawaii. It’s such a cool place to grow up in. There are so many things to do and you can have an active lifestyle. I played a bunch of sports when I was young. There are beaches everywhere. It’s just a magical place. I loved it.
I played basketball all through high school. I played junior varsity and varsity, but to be honest, Maui basketball is not something to write home about. It’s not too high level, but I started my junior and senior years – I was a shooting guard and it was fun. Maybe it helped me with my competitive mindset.
I got introduced to golf as a six or seven-year-old. My parents put me into a clinic with a bunch of kids, and at the end of the clinic we had a five-hole tournament and I made five pars. I won by 15 or something. One of the instructors came up to my parents and said, ‘I think your kid has talent. This is his first time picking up a club.’ They started getting me lessons when I was young. I started playing good junior golf, and then I played on my high school team. I wasn’t really sure (about golf) at the time, I was playing basketball and golf and I liked other sports as well. I played really well in high school, so I got recruited to college and I thought, ‘well, I could get some free education and that sounds great – plus play golf at the same time.’ I couldn’t go wrong.
I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to turn pro. I had a pretty good senior year in college, so that’s when I started to think about turning pro. It was just baby steps the whole way. It was never a huge dream of mine as a little kid to play on the PGA TOUR, I just took it one step at a time and just have seen where my game has progressed.
It was my first time to Canada trying to Monday Qualify in Vancouver in 2018. I love it. I have nothing to say but good things about Canada. Canadian people are awesome – they’re the friendliest people in the world, I tell everyone. I’ve loved almost every place I’ve been to, especially British Columbia. Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna – just beautiful.
I played well in Q-School. I finished third back in April, which got me into the first six starts. To be honest, I went into the season very confident, but after missing my first three cuts, the goal was to just make a cut so I could play the rest of the season out. I won (last) week and the goals have changed a little bit. I’m going to try to step on the gas.