Player’s Take: Juan José Guerra
June 29, 2020
By Communications, PGATOURLA.COM
In his first tournament as a professional, at the Estrella del Mar Open, Juan José Guerra demonstrated what he is capable of doing. In Mazatlán he recorded four rounds in the 60s to get into the top 10 of the event that marked the beginning of his PGA TOUR Latinoamérica adventure. While golf is not the most popular sport in his native Dominican Republic, he still dreams of establishing a benchmark for his country among professionals. The 23-year-old has a few ideas why and how he might do that.
I started playing golf at two-and-a-half years old. I was born in 1997, and by the turn of the century I was already starting to hit balls with plastic clubs. Just before I was born, my dad started practicing at Santo Domingo Country Club, where we are members. Being an only child, I always spent time with my dad, and that is where that love for golf started that continues to this day.
I loved baseball. Besides playing golf, baseball was part of my life. I practiced and played the sport until I was 15 years old. I played it three times a week, and I loved it. It is a very popular and competitive sport in my country, but to be honest I always knew that I did not have enough talent to dedicate myself to it. Additionally, I felt that I was not tall enough to compete against the other boys my age.
From age 15, I was clear that I wanted to be a professional. Now that I look back on it, I feel that although I had the conviction to dedicate myself to this, I know that I did not have the discipline and the level that is required.
At age 16, I made the decision to come to the United States to improve my game. It was not an easy decision. I have never lived alone, and I am very attached to my family. Despite this, it was clear to me that if he wanted to make a living from golf, I had to make sacrifices. I have worked very hard since then, and I feel that so far the results have been very positive. Every day I wake up wanting to improve.
My idol has always been Tiger Woods. I feel lucky to have started playing in his time. When I was 12, I had the opportunity to go see him play Bay Hill Club in Orlando. As we followed him during one of the rounds, I felt a ball drop right next to me. I was a kid, and of course I was in the front row to see whose ball it was. Tiger came to hit from that place, and that was a very special moment for me. Seeing him close and feeling that energy he transmits is something indescribable.
I also admire Phil Mickelson. His way of behaving with fans and many aspects of his game caught my attention. Can you imagine a player who has all the good things of Tiger and Phil? It would be from another planet.
I wasn't the best student in college. Even though I received a scholarship to Nova Southeastern University in Florida and graduated with a business management degree, I have to accept that academically I wasn't the best. College golf is very difficult. Many times you travel to competitions for three weeks and the fourth you return to classes and have an exam. Because I was focused on sports, I often didn't study. I give a lot of credit to those who manage to play golf well in college and still achieve good grades. It’s not easy.
I came to the university team in a great moment. When I entered in 2015, the team had already won many things, and it was a very tough competition. We all wanted to be professionals in the future, and seeing the level of golf that each member had helped me to make an effort to stand out. In many tournaments back then, I had to play with players who are now part of the PGA TOUR, such as Joaquín Niemann, Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland. Seeing the success they have had in recent months, I really want to be on the TOUR. It makes you want to work to get to be with them again on a golf course.
People always ask me what would have been in my life if I had not dedicated myself to golf. I have thought a lot about how to answer that, but I still can't find an answer. Golf is my life. I am passionate about this golf world, and if I were not a golf professional I would surely be linked to the industry. This is not a hobby. It is a fundamental part of life.
I'm a fan of ‘80s music. I love bands like Guns N ’Roses or AC/DC. I think I was born in a different time. I love history, I love to know about characters or historical moments.
Something that I also enjoy is watching TV series. I am addicted to television. If I start watching a series or a show, I don't rest until I finish it. Many ask me what I can't live with or stop traveling with and the answer is my headphones. Without them I cannot listen to music nor can I watch series. Without them I feel incomplete.
I am very superstitious. Whenever I go out to play a round of golf I carry two tees in my right-pants pocket, and for 11 years I have been using the same ball marker to use on the green. It is a little marker has a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. My dad gave it to me, and I don't remember the last time I played without it.
With my clubs I am also quite meticulous. I am constantly tinkering and changing clubs, working on the weight of some. I really like fitting clubs to me so I feel comfortable with the sticks I have.
If I could create a dream golfer I would take the best of several players. I would include Tiger's mental focus. For the driver of the ball, I would choose between Dustin Johnson or Rory McIlroy, although I would go with Rory because I feel he is more like me. With the irons, I would say Tiger is the best and with the wedges it would undoubtedly be Phil Mickelson. I would pick Brad Faxon because of his putting.
I shot 63 in the first round of the Puerto Plata Open in 2019, and while I was still an amateur, that was another great boost to reach my first year as a professional with good feelings. I had the opportunity to play several PGA TOUR Latinoamérica events in my country, but definitely to play the way I did it in 2019 in Puerto Plata confirmed that I have the ability to succeed. I arrived without much expectation because as an amateur you have nothing to lose.
I shot 63 the first day in Puerto Plata, and on the second day I went out very nervous. Seeing the people of the city accompanying me was something that I liked too much. A curious anecdote from that tournament is that at one point in the second round, I was 10 strokes ahead of Cristóbal del Solar. Two and a half rounds later, he won the tournament. This explains golf perfectly. This is the game.
I was clear that I wanted to start my career on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. I know many of the countries where tournaments are played, and I have great friends there. I analyzed my options, and between Europe, Asia and Latin America, I always knew that this is my place. Santiago Gómez, with whom I was teammates in college, has been a kind of mentor for me on this circuit.
Food is another factor that makes me feel comfortable on this Tour. I am very complicated with food. I'm not a fan of sauces or hot, spicy items, and I think in Asia it would have been a big problem for me.
The level of the Tour is so high. In this Tour there are players who play so well, and that gives me a clear signal that I have to improve day by day. Many times, you can play amazing and not win. In my first tournament as a member, Alex Rocha finished at 29-under par to win. Twenty-nine under! Wow. I know that these types of scores will not be a constant, but it is a clear sign that you have to make as many birdies as possible. Everyone wants to win, everyone wants to get to the Korn Ferry Tour as fast as possible.