KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Diaz qualifies to play WGC-Mexico in home country
February 23, 2017
By Jarrod Heil , PGATOUR.COM
- February 23, 2017
- Roberto Diaz was the top-ranked Mexican player in the world at the deadline, earning a spot in next week's WGC-Mexico Championship. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Even though Roberto Diaz thought he had earned a berth into the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship after falling to Ethan Tracy in a playoff at the Club Colombia Championship, his good friend Abraham Ancer had a chance to leap him in the Official World Golf Ranking and snag the exemption.
Both Mexican natives, Diaz and Ancer were each gunning for the chance to play in a WGC event in their home country with friends and family looking on.
If Ancer finished T2 or better at the Panama Claro Championship a week later, Diaz had to finish T17 or better. Diaz finished T19 at 4 under, while Ancer’s charge of 9 under was only good enough for fourth place.
“I told Abe that if he made a run on the front nine, I was going to wait for him with champagne and everything,” said Diaz, who qualified for being the highest-ranked player from Mexico in the OWGR. “It was a very good relief that I made it, but also I felt bad for Abe because he’s one of my best friends.”
The two friends even roomed together on the road, but left the exemption out of their conversations.
“We never talked about it the whole week,” Diaz said. “We talked about it on Sunday at dinner after it was over.”
But he talked to his putting coach and his caddie about getting into the WGC prior to the nerves taking hold before Panama. His putting coach told him to focus on his game and “If it happens, it happens.”
“The goal is to play 25 events (or) 30 events (on TOUR), not one,” Diaz said. “We said it’s not going to be possible (to qualify).”
His caddie wasn’t as nonchalant, though.
“I was five off the lead starting the last day (in Colombia). Then I got to No. 17 and my caddie, who was one of my really good friends back home, he looked at me and said, ‘If you birdie this hole, you might get into the WGC,’” Diaz said. “I’m like, ‘Oh great, why did you tell me that?’”
He birdied the final hole, but Tracy’s hole-out for eagle forced a playoff, which Diaz eventually lost after two holes. All is still well in the world for Diaz, though. After all, he never even imagined himself playing professional golf.
His first love was soccer, and he still remains a big fan of the sport. Although he wanted to become a professional soccer player, he knew he wasn’t a star. Even if he was, he said children are recruited at age 14 to play professionally and sent to lower-tier schools where soccer was king and education came second.
“Education was always first for my parents, and the games that I played – the sports that I played – were second,” he said. “If I didn’t do good in school, I couldn’t play any sports.”
Roberto Diaz was an avid soccer player as a kid. ⚽️— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) February 23, 2017
Why did he opt to pursue golf instead? ⛳️ pic.twitter.com/eMJ3wXxlxM
Having played a fair share of International Junior Golf Association events on the east coast of the U.S., Diaz’ game was seen by many coaches. During his senior year of high school, he decided to leave Mexico to play at the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
His play allowed him to earn a golf scholarship at the University of South Carolina-Aiken, where the team won the Division II national championship during his freshman season.
“That was the main goal, to finish university. I never thought about turning pro,” Diaz said. “I started playing better and better and better, and the opportunity was there to turn pro and I did.”
He turned pro in a sport that only his uncle – out of his entire family – played. Now he’s 30 years old with an opportunity learn how PGA TOUR players carry themselves on and off the course.
Even though he has three TOUR events under his belt, this may be the biggest stage of his life. He’s playing in front of friends and family in his home country, with a shot at a multi-year TOUR exemption if he can pull off the improbable and walk away with the trophy.
And as Diaz said, “I’ll have a lot of responsibility to at least make a decent run at the tournament.”