PLANO, Texas — We take this break from anchoring, deer-antler spray, lawsuits and bifurcation rhetoric to return to the world of birdies and bogeys. In other words, golf.
First stop: Proof that the competitive spirit is alive and healthy, as evidenced by Andres Echavarria. He is 25 and lives by the credo, “Have clubs, will travel,” and he restores your faith in those with a sense of adventure.
“You don’t want to know where I’ve been how much travel I’ve done,” he said with a smile.
On the contrary, please tell.
“Eight countries in 11 weeks,” he said. Then he paused. “Maybe seven.”
Seven, eight, what’s the difference? The glory is, the one-time University of Florida golfer is still passionate, still taking on the challenge, still willing to prove himself. Consider, for example, his recent stretch, though word of warning, you may get jet lag from following along.
Mark down his native Colombia as his starting point for the excursion, which first took him to Miami. There, he met up with his boyhood friend Manuel Villegas, and the two of them prepared for a May 9 U.S. Open local qualifier.
Manuel shot 68 for medalist honors; Echavarria also got through with a 70.
A few days “to chill and hang out” with Manuel at his brother Camilo’s home in Jupiter, Fla., then Echavarria flew to Dallas. There, he met up with Camilo, who was at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, though they broke free one pre-tournament day to play at Gleneagles Country Club in nearby Plano, which is where both players were scheduled for a May 20 British Open qualifier.
Having seen that layout, Echavarria flew to Mexico for a Sunday qualifier to the upcoming Web.com Tour event, the Mexico Championship. One practice round at El Bosque Country Club and Echavarria felt he was ready. Was he ever. He shot 66, and not only was that a qualifying score, “but I was fortunate enough to get on a flight before everyone in the field was done, or I would have missed my flight.”
He was back to Dallas, where he arrived late in the evening of Sunday, May 19, got some rest, then went at it for 36 holes the next day to try to nail down a berth in the Open Championship. Alas, he came up agonizingly shy.
Though rounds of 67-69 had him at 4 under on a day of 30-mph winds, are you forgetting that “these guys are good”? Five players shot 135 or better. The four who were at 136? They had to play off for just three spots.
So, the young man from Colombia who is always on the go had to travel a little more – to the tee box at the par-3 17th. It was a short and bittersweet trip.
Though he did draw positives from his performance, bottom line was, “it was not good enough, but almost,” said Echavarria, who bogeyed the 17th and was eliminated. Bud Cauley, Robert Karlsson and Luke Guthrie all advanced, joining Josh Teater, Johnson Wagner, Scott Brown, Brian Davis and Camilo Villegas.
The fact that Camilo shot 134, then walked out to watch his countryman compete in the playoff meant a lot to Echavarria.
“He’s a lifelong idol. I grew up watching him play,” said Echavarria. “Same coach, same high school, same club, since I was really young. He’s a great, great friend. It would have been awesome (to have earned a spot into the Open Championship with him).”
That opportunity having slipped by, Echavarria smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and said he was setting his sights on the next course of action. El Bosque CC, for this week’s Mexico Championship. He had been criticized in some quarters by making these lengthy trips to do U.S. Open local qualifying and Web.com Tour qualifying and British Open qualifying, but Echavarria sees the challenges simply as what his job is all about.
“I missed a (Latinoamerica Tour) event (the Mundo Maya Open) last week. But I knew something good was going to happen – and it did. I got into the Web.com Tour.”
That’s the tour to which he has visions of graduating, should things go well this year on the Latinoamerica. So while it will be worth the look – a scouting trip, if you will – Echavarria knows his return to the Latinoamerica Tour will be sooner, not later. Most likely, the Dominican Republic Open on May 29-June 1. From there, he’ll be back to Florida to prepare for a June 3 U.S. Open sectional.
Whew. If you’re keeping score at home, it should read Colombia to Miami to Dallas to Mexico to Dallas to Mexico to the Dominican Republic to Miami.
Mind you, that’s for about a five-week period. We’re too exhausted to take you through any more of his season.