Insider: Alvarado's win in Brazil has him changing course

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Alvarado currently ranks second on the Tour money list.
May 09, 2013
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM

The honeymoon has been put on hold. Again. And that may be a small item amid the upheaval Benjamin Alvarado has been contemplating of late.

Such as relocation.

The Chilean pro has settled on Florida, but where? Miami, where his model/actress wife can transition her career to South Beach? Orlando, which offers cooler weather and still a direct flight back to Santiago? Jupiter or Jacksonville, perhaps more golf-focused locales?

“I want to ask a lot and get a lot of opinions, then try to decide,” Alvarado said with a smile.

He doesn’t have to rush, but Alvarado suddenly finds himself on a faster timetable after the happy turn his career took a month ago.

Victory at the inaugural Brasil Classic, where he received a late invitation, gave Alvarado instant Tour membership for this year and next. One more high finish might be all that’s needed to propel him to the bigger goal – a PGA TOUR card.

“Everything’s changed, but it’s nice,” the 27-year-old pro said. “It’s what I’ve always dreamed to be, so it’s very nice to be here and be part of the Tour.”

Alvarado, who played two years at Arizona State, had expected to spend the spring on NEC Series PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. He finished 23rd on last year’s money list after missing a chunk of the schedule to pursue the final edition of PGA TOUR Q-School.

“I qualified for second stage, so I missed three events in a row,” said Alvarado, who fell short of earning a berth in Q-School finals.

He also played six Tour events in 2012 but missed two of five cuts, withdrew once and posted just one finish inside the top 35. That came at the Chile Classic, where he tied for ninth playing on home soil.

“I had a couple of invitations where they told me on Monday that I got in,” he said. “I had to fly in from Chile, with no practice round, to start play on Thursday. It’s tough to play well in those conditions.”

Alvarado tied for fourth at the Chile Classic this year, earning a berth the following week in Louisiana. But it was also his 12th consecutive start, coming after 11 weeks without a break on Chile’s national tour.

The fatigue caught up with him in Louisiana, where he missed the cut.

“I was so tired,” he said. “I told my wife I don’t want to see a golf club for two weeks. Then I got this email like two hours [later] – I had an invitation to play in Brazil, but I’d have to leave the next day.

“My wife was kind of laughing at me – ‘What are you going to do now?’ I said you have to take that chance. You don’t have those chances every day.”

Alvarado did little more than check in that Monday. The next day, he walked the course and took notes but again left his clubs undisturbed. He finally hit some balls on Wednesday, but kept his practice to a minimum.

An opening 67 left Alvarado two shots off the lead, and rain limited him to just five holes the next day. He came back to finish off an 8-under-par 63, then added a 66 to move three shots clear of the field.

When he closed out a one-stroke victory, Alvarado had newfound status.

Just one other Chilean man has won an event of comparable rank, when Felipe Aguilar captured the European Tour’s Indonesia Open in 2008. On the LPGA, Nicole Perrot won the 2005 Longs Drugs Challenge.

“Chile is a very small country, so my win in Brazil was a big thing,” said Alvarado, who estimated he did more than two dozen TV and radio interviews in the days that followed.

“It was very busy, but it was nice for sport back in Chile – not only Chile, but for all South American people that play golf.”

For a few days, Alvarado even had a higher profile than his wife. Lucila Vit is an Argentine model who has appeared in several Chilean television programs in recent years. When they married last December, TV crews were on hand for live reports outside the church.

“We were planning to have our honeymoon in June,” Alvarado said. “Now we have to postpone everything for maybe next year, or the end of the year. But she was so happy for it. She knows how much I’ve worked to be here, all the things I went through.”

And now they must plan a new future.

Vit has a gig on the Chilean show “¡Baila!” – their “Dancing with the Stars” – that runs through June. After that, the couple will have to assess their options.

Miami, where South Beach is a modeling hub and both Univisión and Telemundo have studios nearby, would seem a natural choice. But Alvarado suggested his wife might pursue becoming a personal trainer.

“She knows she can’t be an actress for the rest of her life,” he said. “She wants to have kids, be part of my life around the Tour. But she thought that would be maybe in two or three years, not too soon. Now she’s thinking about it.”

Decisions, decisions.

Meantime, Alvarado is trying to adjust to a new circuit, new venues. He’s currently No. 2 on the money list at $150,100, but missed the cut each of the past two weeks in Georgia.

“These players, some have played these courses for many years,” he said. “That’s a good advantage, but I think I’m a good player. If I play good, I’m going to be on the PGA TOUR.”

At the very least, Alvarado knows he has a Tour spot through 2014. And by October, he can pencil in a new date for that honeymoon.

Maybe November in Hawaii, if he remains on the Tour roster. Or… the PGA TOUR’s new wraparound schedule comes back from holiday hiatus in the islands next January.

“If I make my card,” he said hopefully, “we’re going to the Sony Open.”