Olympia’s Andres Gonzales cannot change who he is – a merry, wisecracking social butterfly who gets along with people from all walks of life, in all shapes and sizes.
But to survive this time on the PGA Tour – to remain in the top 125 on the money list in order to retain full-time privileges on golf’s elite professional tour – he has learned he might have to scale that back just a bit.
The Capital High School graduate tees it up for the first time in 2013 at this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii – the first full-field event of the season.
He is armed with a new sponsor (Callaway), a welcomed travel partner (his wife, Kristin, will work from the road) – and now a pretty good outlook on what it will take to get his career going after being on the PGA Tour in 2011.
“A lot of (the struggles) had to do with the first half of the year in 2011,” Gonzales said. “I was so excited, I burned myself out. I would be at the course for eight to 10 hours for no reason.”
And who could blame him? As a rookie, he started the year in scenic Hawaii. A few weeks later, he was walking the fairways of Pebble Beach in California – then onto the fine red sand of the Arizona desert.
He was seeing some of the best courses – and outlying resorts – in the world every week.
“I cannot blame myself,” Gonzales said. “I was having a blast.”
The issue wasn’t enjoyment – it was making money. He missed eight cuts in 11 events, and his best finish before July arrived was a 38th-place tie at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
It was around that time a few of his buddies from Las Vegas – PGA Tour veterans Charley Hoffman, Bill Lunde and Dean Wilson – offered Gonzales counsel.
“They told me I had no reason to be here as long as I was – like hitting golf balls on the range when I did not have to hit balls,” he said. “Right after the U.S. Open, and I had not been playing well to that point, I knew something had to change.”
He reduced his on-course practice, playing and social time, and began doing more activities off site.
“The second half of the year ... I enjoyed myself off the course, and tried to see what each city had to give, whether it was a baseball game or at a restaurant or even an amusement park just to get my mind off golf,” Gonzales said. “That helped a lot when you’re level with every part of your life – family, fun time and work time.”
He made four of the final five cuts of the season – including a season-best 16th-place tie at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic – but finished the year with $186,847, good for 192nd on the tour.
But that retooled approach paid dividends the next season on the Web.com Tour, where he won the Soboba Classic in April and was the money leader for most of the first half of the season en route to a 14th-place finish, securing his PGA Tour card for 2013.
“A lot of guys have faster learning curves – like from our area, Kyle Stanley. He went out there and in his second year, he played well and won,” Gonzales said. “I wish I had been on a faster learning curve ... but that has not been the case for me.
“The main thing for me is to enjoy what is going on. I know I am good enough that I can play at the highest level.”
THE Andres gonzales FILE
Schools: Capital High School/UNLV.
2012 season: Made 14 out of 23 cuts, posted three top-10 finishes and totaled $235,505 in season earnings on the Web.com Tour. Won his first career Web.com Tour event at the Soboba Golf Classic (8-under-par 276) in April.
Best finish in 2012 at a major: Did not play.
World ranking heading into this season: 374th.
Caddie: Brandon DeStefano.
Swing instructor/short-game coach: Mike Davis/Dwaine Knight.
Agent(s): Hambric Sports Management (Blake Smith).
In the bag: Callaway X Hot driver, Callaway X Hot 3-wood, Scratch Golf SB-1 irons, Scratch Golf custom wedges, Odyssey putter, Titleist Pro V1 (2009) golf ball.
Endorsements: Callaway, Titleist, Travis Mathew Apparel.
Five to thrive in: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Feb. 7-10, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.; Northern Trust Open, Feb. 14-17, Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, Calif.; Waste Management Phoenix Open, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Shell Houston Open, March 28-31, Redstone Golf Club, Humble, Texas; Wells Fargo Championship, May 2-5, Quail Hollow Country Club, Charlotte, N.C.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles email@example.com