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  • Player’s Take: Raul Pereda

  • Mexico’s Raul Pereda, 24, turned pro in 2018 after his graduation from Jacksonville University. (Photo courtesy of Eduardo Sanchez)
    Mexico’s Raul Pereda, 24, turned pro in 2018 after his graduation from Jacksonville University. (Photo courtesy of Eduardo Sanchez)
  • In This Article
  • Raul Pereda sat down at a Mexican restaurant not far from his home. He’s a frequent visitor as the food comes quickly, is made in the style he prefers and is not far from his home and the course where he practices at the southern reaches of Jacksonville. Pereda came to Florida’s First Coast to attend college at Jacksonville University, and he liked it so much he stayed. One place Pereda will become even more acquainted than he already is is Jacksonville International Airport. In early March, Pereda, already a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica member, qualified to play on the Mackenzie Tour once that season starts later this summer. His plan is to play every PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament, and when that season ends he will segue immediately into his first Mackenzie Tour season after earning membership at the Qualifying Tournament outside Fort Lauderdale. The Mexico City native who grew up in Córdoba, Veracruz, Mexico, had plenty on his mind, as he took time, between bites, to share a bit of his background.

    My go-to Mexican food I eat in the U.S., is fried tacos with chicken, topped with lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and a little bit of pico de gallo.

    There’s only one place in Florida where the Mexican food is as good as what I can get in Mexico, and it’s at my brother’s house.

    The first time I held a golf club in my hand? I want to say I was either two or three years old, and I was either 14 or 15 when I first broke 70. I can’t remember exactly.

    Raul started playing golf at an early age. On the right, you can see him playing a tournament with his father as his caddie. (Courtesy of Raul Pereda)

    I grew up playing a lot of sports. I played tennis, and I played soccer, but golf was definitely my best sport. I did love soccer. I was a goalkeeper. I was a scratch-handicap goalkeeper. I believe I could have played in college in the U.S. if I had stuck with it. I played all the way from fifth grade until my last year of high school.

    Coaches like bigger guys playing goalie. But I was pretty agile, and I was not afraid of the ball and going up and getting it. When I started getting more serious into golf, that’s when I became more careful and less aggressive going toward the ball. I didn’t want to get hurt. That’s not how to play goalie.

    After I graduated from high school is when I started to think I might be able to play golf professionally. I always wanted to. Before getting to college, I played in a pro event on the Mexican Tour, and I won by three shots over Julián Valenciana, a professional player from Monterrey. The tournament was in Puebla, and I won it just a couple of days before my 18th birthday. That was a big confidence-builder.

    Raul became a Mexican Tour champion as a 17-year amateur with his victory at Club Campestre de Puebla in Puebla, Mexico. (Mexican Tour)

    My favorite golf memory is when I was younger. Starting when I was six, my parents would pick me up from school around 2:30 and take me to the golf course, the Country Club of Córdoba. We would have lunch before my practice at 4. The first thing I would do is go to the bag storage and ask for my golf clubs. I always picked up my clubs before we went to lunch.

    During the summers, my mom would drop me off at the course at nine before she went to work, and I would be there until seven or eight at night. I would go to the pool, I would play golf, I would practice. It was great.

    My best friend, Jorge Castillo, was there at the course with me. We’re 26 days apart. He’s the brother I never grew up with, and we did everything together at the course.

    When I was younger, I was very attracted to math. I would stay after for extra math classes. It wasn’t that I was so great at it. But I would finish my homework and have nothing to do the rest of the day, so I would go to those classes.

    I couldn’t do algebra right now. But give me 20 minutes to review and I could probably do it.

    I really didn’t like English, especially in college with all the literature. We were reading Homer. I don’t even want to remember the Iliad, the Odyssey, stuff like that. Not a great memory.

    Family time on and off the course. Raul with his parents, Francisco and Claudia, and his sister, Gina. (Courtesy of Raul Pereda)

    These days, to relax I listen to a lot of Luis Miguel. He is great, and when I have a three-hour drive to Tampa to see my girlfriend, any of his music I will listen to.

    This is non-traditional, but I listen to country. That’s a fun fact since I’m from Mexico. I like Colt Ford, and I like how he never knew how to sing but raps country. I also like Luke Bryan.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie in a theater. You’re going to laugh, but the last movie I saw was “Frozen 2.” I went with my girlfriend, but it was not a sacrifice to go. She wanted to go, and so did I. We watched it in Tampa.

    Even though it sounds a little weird, I like animated movies a lot. If I have nothing to do, I’ll watch “Cars” or “Toy Story.” I also like suspense-thriller movies like “The Conjuring” and “Annabelle.”

    I really enjoy not doing anything, chilling at home and watching TV. But a perfect day for me would be to be in Mexico, maybe Mexico City. I would enjoy walking around the city and trying different or new restaurants.

    I’ve been to Asia three times. In 2017 I went to the University Games in [Chinese Taipei]. I also went to the Aaron Baddeley World Junior Championship in Guangzhou, in 2015, and I played in the Beijing Junior Open in China.

    Pereda earned the gold medal in the men's golf competition at the 2017 University Games at Sunrise G&CC in Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei. Finished at 16-under 200, with rounds of 64-69-67. (Photo courtesy of Raul Pereda)

    When I go to a different country, the thing I’m most attracted to is food and culture. The first time I went to China, we went to a little street market, and I tried scorpion and snake. Doing things like that is something I enjoy.

    The favorite city I’ve visited is Chicago. It’s hard when I go to cities because mainly I’m in the hotel and at the golf course. I don’t get to see too much. I have a lot of memories going to Chicago and visiting the Willis Tower. That was nice. I was also impressed with Taipei. We went to Taipei 101, all the way to the top, 101 stories. We then hiked Elephant Mountain, and that was one of the places I enjoyed too.

    My girlfriend used to get lessons from my coach. One day, we connected on social media and started “talking.” She was going to be at a wedding in St. Augustine, not far from where I live. I was like, “Hey, let’s grab a cup of coffee and actually meet.” She was like, “I don’t know.” I texted her the Sunday after the wedding, and I said, “Hey, are we gonna go?” She was hesitant. I told her, “Seriously? I’m one exit north of where you are.” She was at the World Golf Village. What’s with this hard-to-get girl? She finally said OK.

    We met at 12:30 at the Starbucks on County Road 210 in Jacksonville. We stayed in there until 4 o’clock. We hit it off. We laughed a lot and had a great time. She lives in Tampa, but we’re still together.

    Raul and his girlfriend Lauren who lives in Tampa. (Photo courtesy of Raul Pereda)

    She pushes me a lot to get better and be better. She’s tough. She said, “I would love to have you in Tampa with me, but I know why you have to be in Jacksonville. You have your coach there. That’s what you have to do.”

    I came to Jacksonville for college, and I just love it. I love the facilities at St. Johns (Golf and Country Club) and the proximity to all the courses here, including TPC Sawgrass.

    I try to go to TPC Sawgrass probably two or three times a week. I usually play with Josh Seiple or Rohan Ramnath. When we play, we usually play a game called Banker. It’s fun. There is a lot of double betting, and every shot matters. It keeps you in the game.

    If I can’t play golf, a perfect day would be me sitting around and watching movies or TV. I like picking up a new show and watching it. A few weeks ago, I really needed a rest. It was after all the preparation for Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament. So, I watched a TV show that was 20 episodes, two seasons, and I did it in two days. See what I mean?