I was on the phone with my good friend, Andres Gonzales, last night. We both grew up in WA, shared a swing coach, and played junior golf together. After playing on the UNLV Men’s Golf Team, Andres turned pro and currently plays on the Nationwide, Canadian and Gateway Tours. I even caddied for him at the the Canadian Tour Championship last September. No one could believe I was looping for him; probably because the golf bag weighed more than I did, but I made it around the links. It was a cool experience – being around competitive golfers again. I’d almost forgotten what characters these guys were.
But, I digress. Andres had just finished playing a practice round at this week’s Gateway Tour Event in Scottsdale, AZ. We started chatting and he mentioned that Ryan Moore, (who also grew up playing junior golf with us in WA), had called him earlier that day. Andres and Ryan were also roommates and teammates at UNLV. When Ryan won the 2002 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, he received an exemption to play at the 2003 Masters and Andres caddied for him. With that said, I asked Andres to give me the inside scoop on Augusta and his experience (again).
“It’s story time, Dres. I remember you telling me how cool it was, but that was a long time ago,” I said. “I want to hear more of the details. It must have been awesome.”
He responded, “Well yeah, obviously. When was it again? Okay, yeah it was 2003. I learned how to really play golf at that tournament. Ryan [Moore] was a stud amateur and he got to play practice rounds with Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Charles Howell, Len Mattiace…”
I asked, “Wait, Len who?”
“Len Mattiace, the guy who lost in a play-off that year to Mike Weir,” he replied. “When we were on the green of #12, the par 3, we were walking off and Len, who hadn’t been [to Augusta] since the Walker Cup, just looked like a little kid at a candy shop because it was so amazing; everything about it. I can’t describe it.”
“Wow, I can only imagine. That’s cool Ryan had such good pairings. Okay, so what else? Oh! Tell me about Gary Player. What was he like?,” I inquired.
Andres laughed, “Um, I don’t know…well, at one point, [Player] turned to Ryan and said, ‘If my Dad doesn’t get in shape, he’s going to die.’ Out of nowhere!”
I paused for a moment. Then I said, “Wait, what?! You’ve got to be kidding. Was this verbatim?”
He replied, “Yep! Verbatim! [Ryan and I] were speechless. [Player] is a major health-nut, you know. Look, he’s 72 and playing in the Masters. It’s pretty incredible. I have all the respect for him, but…”
I interrupted, “It’s like, Player, I know you’re really into fitness, but your Dad has to be well into his 90s. Cut him some slack! The only exercise he’s probably getting is when he raises his cane to yell out the answers on Jeopardy!”