When you are on the outside looking into the major men’s professional tours, you need to make the most of any rare opportunity you may receive.
That is what Myrtle Beach resident Roberto Diaz has done.
Diaz reached the final stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament last December, but finished 56th to have only limited status.
He did not play in any Web.com events based on that status, but being a native of Mexico, he was given a sponsor exemption into the El Bosque Mexico Championship from April 10-13 and tied for 13th to earn more than $12,000. More importantly, because he finished in the top 25 he was guaranteed a spot in the tour’s next event per the tour’s bylaws.
He took advantage of that opportunity with a tie for 15th in the WNB Classic on April 27, which had the final round rained out, and though he missed the cut in his next event, he had earned enough money to improve his status on the tour and qualify for future events.
“I knew I was going to be able to get into some tournaments after the first shuffle, though not all year long,” Diaz said.
He tied for 36th at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in the Greenville area on May 18, then became a viable contender for the season-ending spoils on the tour by tying for fourth in the Rex Hospital Open on May 25 at the TPC at Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, N.C., with an 11-under 273 and earned nearly $26,000.
“I felt pretty comfortable in that tournament because I played there two years ago and I really like the course,” Diaz said. “I like the crowds – the people are really nice – I like the greens, everything about it. I had fun and I had a good week.”
He has since tied for 31st in the Cleveland Open on June 8 and missed the cut of 2-under 138 by seven shots with a 72-73–145 this past week at the Air Capital Classic in Kansas.
Diaz is 46th on the money list with 54,950 earned.
The top 25 at the end of the regular season automatically earn status on the 2015 PGA Tour, and the top 75 are entered in the Web.com Tour Playoffs, where an additional 25 cards will be earned. The playoffs include the 75 players who finished 126th through 200th in PGA Tour FedExCup points.
“It has been a good path,” Diaz said. “I’ve been playing pretty good since last year. I knew it was going to take some tournaments to get comfortable on the Web.com. I’ve been playing a lot on mini tours and I wanted to get off the mini tours. I wanted to take advantage of my opportunity. With all the hard work I was able to do that.”
Diaz had full status this year on the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica NEC Series – a feeder of the Web.com – based on his finish inside the top 60 on last year’s LatinoAmerica money list, and started his run of good play with a tie for second in the March 20-23 TransAmerican Power Products CRV Open in Guadalajara, Mexico, with a 17-under 267 that included an 8-under 63.
“I went to Latin America and lost in a playoff in one event, and that gave me momentum to play better in the next event,” he said.
His week at the El Bosque Mexico Championship was one shot from being a disappointment. He finished the second round with three birdies in the last four holes to make the cut on the number, then shot a 68 and 70 on the weekend to move up the leaderboard.
Diaz played at USC Aiken and has lived at least part-time in Myrtle Beach and trained at and played out of the Greg Norman Champions Golf Academy at Barefoot Resort.
He has assembled a team over the past couple years that includes Norman academy director of instructor Scott Shobe, academy trainer and nutritionist Kelly Fisher Shobe, mental coaches Juan Carlos Dominguez and Jorge Martinez of Mexico City, and equipment manufacturer TaylorMade-adidas.
His caddie has been Ramon Bescansa, who played at North Carolina and is the brother of Coastal Carolina alum Ricardo Bescansa, but he’s not available for three events, so former CCU player and North Myrtle Beach grad Sam Lyons is caddying at least through next week.
“I’ve had a good team behind me and it has been pretty good since we got together,” Diaz said. “I’ve been doing the same things that got me here. I haven’t changed anything.”
Diaz has five consecutive Web.com Tour events planned, the second being this week’s $600,000 United Leasing Championship at Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Ind. Last week’s event began a stretch of 12 of next 14 Web.com events leading to the Web.com Tour Championship from Sept. 18-21.
Diaz said he isn’t yet trying to project his finish on the Web.com money list. “I haven’t really changed my goal,” he said. “The goal every week is to play as good as possible and take advantage of the opportunity I have to play the next week. There are still a lot of events left so I’d rather keep focusing on taking advantage of each week, and everything will take care of itself.”
McDonald moving up
Another area touring pro taking advantage of a recent opportunity is Ricky McDonald of Pawleys Island and Wachesaw Plantation Club.
McDonald qualified through a Q-School for PGA Tour Canada – another of the three Web.com Tour feeder tours – and after a slow start with a missed cut and tie for 61st in the first two $150,000 events, he finished second Sunday in the third tournament to earn $16,200 and move up to fourth on the money list.
“That first round [in Canada], I didn’t really know what to expect,” McDonald said. “I was stepping into a bigger stage. I came out a little bit timid and I shouldn’t have. Once I got that first round under my belt I shot 68 and proved to myself I could do it.
“The second tournament I just wasn’t getting the most out of my rounds, and it was frustrating. This week, I was able to convert, which is nice. It was nice to do it when you need it.”
McDonald shot rounds of 72, 64, 68 and 67 for a 17-under 271 in the Syncrude Boreal Open at Fort McMurray Golf Course in Alberta to finish five strokes behind the winner. He shot a second-nine 31 in his round of 64.
“I gained a little confidence about the second round, really on the back nine,” McDonald said. “To be able to carry that play into Saturday was awesome. I was even through 10 and birdied four of the final 7.”
PGA Tour Canada has nine events remaining and the top five on the season-ending money list earn full Web.com Tour status in 2015. In addition, the top three on the money list through the next three-event stretch earn exemptions into the PGA Tour’s $5.7 million RBC Canadian Open.
McDonald, 23, has a sponsor who is covering expenses for him and his caddie during the Canadian season.
The tour has a week off, so McDonald returned to Pawleys Island on Monday and will travel to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on Sunday for the next event.
“I’m definitely building off this and there’s only one way to go from here, which is up,” he said. “And it proves to me I can play with these guys. A lot of them have been at it three or four years.”
Hack Golf tees off
While the top contenders in the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship compete in the third round at The Dunes Club, some of the PGA pros who miss the cut and are contracted with TaylorMade-adidas Golf will be battling it out in the first professional event in the area using Par-Aid’s 15-inch Hack Golf Cup.
The event will be held at Grande Dunes Resort Club, which co-hosted the first two rounds of the PPNC. The pros will vie for a purse of $5,000 in an individual stroke play competition.
The PGA section with the lowest best ball score will receive a $1,500 donation to be used for Growth of the Game initiatives in the section. The section will also receive a set of Hack Golf’s 15-inch cups to be used for their own events.
In a similar event earlier this year in Greensboro, Ga., PGA Tour players and TaylorMade touring pros Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose played nine holes with the 15-inch cups, shooting rounds of 6-under 30 and 33, respectively, in just over 90 minutes.
“It is clear our game needs something to recapture the incredible growth and momentum we were experiencing a decade ago,” TaylorMade-adidas CEO Mark King said in a press release. “Whether it is this 15-inch-cup concept or an idea that comes in from outside the industry, we need to spark a revolution that will bring new participants to the game.”
Grande Dunes is hosting a Hack Golf event for National Golf Management PrimeTime card holders and Honors members at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The Hack Golf events are the third alternative golf event in the area in the past couple weeks, joining a Speed Golf event at Blackmoor Golf Club and FootGolf event at Meadowlands Golf Club. FootGolf combines golf and soccer.
A True name change
True Blue Plantation is changing its name to True Blue Golf Club.
The course opened with the plantation tag in 1998, four years after sister course and fellow Mike Strantz design Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. The course logo will change to incorporate “Golf Club.”
“It’s really for out of market, to identify ourselves through our logo more easily as a golf club versus a plantation for people who aren’t familiar with our property,” said True Blue and Caledonia head pro Bob Seganti.