Player’s Take: Benjamín Alvarado
An accomplished golfer with a huge passion for motorcycles
October 28, 2020
By Benjamin Alvarado, with Gregory Villalobos, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Communications
Benjamín Alvarado has had a very good career in golf. He started playing the game at age 11. As a junior golfer he went on to win multiple tournaments, such as the South American Championship (2001), the Junior World Golf Championships (2002), the Junior Orange Bowl (2003) and the Chile Open (2003). After claiming All-American honors at Arizona State, in 2007, he decided to turn pro. Following the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica inaugural season in 2012, he broke through on the Korn Ferry Tour, taking advantage of a sponsor’s invite to win the 2013 Brasil Classic. That win paved his way to the PGA TOUR, where over the next two seasons he had limited playing opportunities because of injuries. At age 35, at the same time he is about to become a father, Alvarado remains hopeful he’ll make it back to the PGA TOUR while competing on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica via his Korn Ferry Tour status. In order to play golf, he gave up riding motorcycles, but his passion for them is more alive than ever
I fell in love with motorcycles when I was a kid. I was only seven when my father, Carlos, brought a Kawasaki dealership to Chile. My dad was a big fan of motorcycles, he loved to do endures, which are long-distance, cross-country time-trail competitions. He used to ride his motorcycle all the time. My whole family is really a family of motorcycle riders.
When I was between 11 and 12, I switched to golf. I changed simply because I won the first golf tournament I played. While competing on the motorcycle, I couldn’t win anything in my division. The joy I felt winning made me focus on golf, but my love for motorcycles never disappeared.
In fact, while I was studying and playing golf at Arizona State, I used to attend American Motocross Association professional races. It is a sport that I have never stopped watching on TV.
For many years I had been wishing to buy a motorcycle, but I did not dare do it for fear of something bad happening while doing such an extreme sport. I knew a motorcycle accident could keep me away from golf for a long time, and since golf is what I do for a living, exposing myself to that would be kind of stupid.
However, the pandemic came our way and everything has been kind of stagnant. The years have passed, and I’m about to become a father. I see my life as a little more stable here in Chile, not wanting to travel as much as in the past.
The COVID-19 restrictions have been quite severe here in Chile. Since coming back from the Estrella del Mar Open in Mazatlán last March, I have only been able to play three rounds of golf.
The golf courses were allowed to reopen just a month ago, but playing when you are completely out of sync is very unpleasant because you end up hitting the ball all over the place. These days my practices are limited to the one hour I am allowed to go to the driving range, from Tuesday through Saturday.
In addition, the gyms remain closed, and the only sport you can really do is jogging on the street or going to a park for some exercises. You are also allowed to ride a motorcycle, because it’s something you can do outdoors.
Given these circumstances, a few weeks ago I decided to buy a bike. For the past month I have been the proud owner of a Yamaha YZ 250 FX. It’s quite a powerful bike that works for motocross and endures. In my case, I bought it for endures, which is like rallying, riding through the mountains, going over rocks, across rivers or through forests.
Fortunately, my brother took it upon himself to convince me that I won’t fall if I’m careful. I know it’s dangerous, but I’m cautious and ride at my own pace. I have taken a few falls over the past few weeks, so I have a few bruises, but nothing major.
When I fall off the bike, I don’t fall as hard as my brother does because he is going at full speed. My brother really flies when he is on his bike. It’s something he takes very seriously because he competes and trains to win races. If we had a handicap at this, I would say I’m a 25 handicap while my brother is a scratch.
When I ride my bike, I get a similar feeling to one when you get to the last few holes of a golf tournament while in contention. Those nerves that you feel in those moments in golf, you can feel them for three or four hours on a motorcycle. The sensation is lengthy because you go out to ride for several hours, and you cannot blink, otherwise you fall and break a bone or something. It’s great to feel those nerves again and that adrenaline rush the bike produces.
Chile has always been known as massive for motorcycles because we have the Andes Mountains, which provide great conditions for your bike rides. Our mountains are ideal for off-road racing, and every respected biker doing this wants to go up the mountain to a famous area best known as Shangrila. It’s a ride of about an hour and a half to get to that point.
When I bought the bike, my brother told me that he would give me eight months of training three times a week to be ready to reach our goal. I asked him if it would be difficult. He replied, “Oh yeah, it’s very difficult.” I have friends who have been riding for two years, and they have yet to make it there.
Last week I went up with my brother and managed to get there without falling even once. I was delighted. It was unbelievable. When I made it, I felt as happy as when I won a golf tournament. However, there was work still to be done, as coming down the mountain was a lot tougher.
At that point you are extremely tired and the descent is very dangerous. You are coming down along cliffs, with a lot of mud and sharp stones. You also get cramped fingers from pressing the brakes so much. Just knowing that I could tell all my fellow riders that I made it to Shangrila only after five or six practice rides was the best. They couldn't believe it. I guess I had some fuel left from what I learned when I was a kid.
The key about riding a bike is having no fear. If you feel afraid, you shouldn’t get on a bike, much less try something like off-road racing. When you are up there, riding a motorcycle that weighs 260 pounds, you will run into very steep mountains full of rocks.
If you let fear take control, and you blink for a second, you will lose grip of your bike and you will get hurt. Instead of fear, what I feel is an adrenaline rush and that’s something I enjoy immensely.