KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Pereira bounces back from injury with steady Korn Ferry Tour performance
March 04, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
Mito Pereira drains an eagle to win the Bogota Championship
Things couldn’t have gone worse for Mito Pereira at the end of 2018. And then they did.
After finishing 129th on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List, Pereira failed to get through Q-School.
And then back home in Chile he fell off his bicycle and broke his collarbone.
“Obviously in that moment it was terrible,” says Pereira. “But if I look back, it probably helped me a little bit. It was a month that I didn’t play. I cooled down and took all the bad things out.”
Almost two years later and Pereira is now reaping the benefits of everything that happened to him physically and mentally during that injury time.
The 24-year-old has three top-5 finishes in four events so far this year, including a win at the Country Club de Bogota Championship. He leads The 25 through the early part of 2020.
This comes after Pereira finished at the unfortunate position of T41 at the Final Stage of Q-School, just one shot back of earning guaranteed starts for 2020. Still, he was unfazed, knowing he’d at least get into a couple of events.
“I knew I’d get in Panama and Colombia so I figured I’d put all my efforts into those tournaments and it came out well,” he says.
“Better than I expected,” he adds with a laugh.
Growing up in Chile, Pereira started playing golf at three years old in Santiago. His dad played, too, and Pereira got scouted to join the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida by the time he was a young teenager.
But something changed in him.
He’s not sure really, what happened, but he quit golf at 15. He didn’t touch a club for two years. He was supposed to be part of the IMG Academy for three years and started there as a 14 year old. After six months he felt as though he had had enough of golf.
When he came back to the sport as a 17-year-old, though, he played “incredible” at his first tournament. He kept going with golf and was recruited by Texas Tech University who had seen him earn some solid results from when he picked the game up again until he turned 18. They had another Chilean on their team, Matias Dominguez, who was a senior when Pereira began as a freshman.
Pereira was second on the team in Scoring Average but left after one year because he says he just wanted to play professional golf. He got off to a quick start, making all five cuts on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica after he turned pro. The next year he finished third on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Order of Merit to earn a Korn Ferry Tour card for the first time. He’d go on to finish 76th on the Korn Ferry Tour’s Regular Season Points List the next year thanks in large part to a run in the summer when he went T15-T11-T3-T12.
The following season he ended the year with eight straight missed cuts.
What ended up happening at the end of that year, Pereira says, is he discovered a mental coach, Eugenio Lisama. Lisama is a neuropsychologist that works with his clients’ brains – he doesn’t just talk through a client’s issues with them. Pereira says working with sensors on his brain and analyzing the data was “like going to the gym for your brain.”
Lisama, who, like Pereira, is based in Chile, works with guys who usually race in Formula 1 or play soccer.
“He showed me some data of those guys and it’s unbelievable,” says Pereira of the athletes that engage their brain much quicker than he does playing golf. “But we all need our minds to be blank. That’s what he teaches and trains with me on.”
While Pereira was working on his brain, he was also mentally motivated by the success of his countryman, Joaquin Niemann.
Niemann won A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in September on the PGA TOUR and was one of Ernie Els’ captain’s picks for the Presidents Cup.
He says Niemann’s success has been part of his boosted confidence.
“It’s amazing. Everybody knew he was going to be a great player but he has done some great stuff. I can see him winning lots of times. It’s not just a lucky tournament. It’s been great for Chile,” says Pereira. “We have some good players (in Chile) but if you don’t have anybody (on the PGA TOUR) you never know if you can make it or not.
“With him being a PGA TOUR winner, it makes for all the Chilean young players (to) feel like they can do it and easier than they did it before.”
Pereira still lives in Chile, but during an early-season off week on the Korn Ferry Tour he stayed with Niemann at his place in Florida. He’s still not sure what he’ll do for the rest of the season in terms of a home base, but he’ll go back to Chile after the next run of tournaments.
One thing that he for sure won’t be doing is riding a bike.
During the time Pereira quit golf, that’s when he really started riding. He would go on a motorcycle as well as a regular bicycle since the mountains are so close to the city. All his life he liked being on two wheels but wasn’t able to do it, since golf took up so much of his time.
When he picked golf back up he says he’s not returned to riding as much as he before, but he’ll still go out, slowly, every once and a while. Everyone would kill him, he says with a laugh, if he got injured again.
So while it’s been a slow two-wheeled ride but a quick workout of the brain for Pereira since his difficult finish to 2018, one thing that’s instead been steady is his performance on the Korn Ferry Tour.
“You train your whole life for this,” he says, “and at some point it might come.”