In San Antonio, Alvarado seeks path back to Tour

Benjamin Alvarado received a sponsor's exemption into the PGA Tour's 2014 Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Texas (shown here during last month's Colombia Championship on the Web.com Tour).

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The Valero Texas Open wasn’t exactly a tournament he had penciled in as part of his ease back into competition, but Benjamin Alvarado is thrilled for the opportunity.

Sitting at home in Orlando, Fla., on Monday, Alvarado was two tournaments into his return from being sidelined for months with an injury to his left kneecap, and had his designs set on some practice. “I just love to practice, love to hit balls,” he said.

He just didn’t realize that his next practice session would be on the range at TPC San Antonio. Alvarado got the call Monday and was offered a sponsor’s exemption, an invite that took him by surprise, but not much time to accept. His travel plans quickly organized, the former Arizona State golfer was at TPC San Antonio by late Tuesday afternoon and quickly got a chance to hit balls and see some of the golf course.

“It’s nice to be here,” he said.

Truth is, it’s nice to be on any golf course, given what Alvarado has been through. Last year he labored through 12 tournaments on the Web.com Tour, but made just five cuts. Fortunately, one of those was parlayed into a victory in Brazil, so Alvarado sat 30th on the money list with $157,304. By July, however, the pain was unbearable and when he went to see the doctor, Alvarado was told his left knee had to be surgically repaired, that the wear and tear had caused too much damage to the kneecap.

“I was out six months. I had just practiced too much, too many reps,” said the 28-year-old, who returned to his native Chile to have his surgery and the early part of his rehab.

Having missed the end of the season and the Web.com Tour Final, Alvarado fell to 50th on the the priority list, which isn’t going to do much for his PGA Tour chances in 2013-14. But with Web.com Tour status, he eyed that schedule and once he got the OK to hit balls in early February, it made sense to pencil in tournaments in Colombia and Chile to ease back into competition. Alvarado missed the cut in each, but the positive news was his health. The knee felt fine.

The news got even more positive when he answered his phone Monday and heard he had a berth in the Valero Texas Open, just his second PGA Tour tournament (the other being the 2011 Canadian Open).

Alvarado will be the first Chilean to play in a PGA Tour tournament, but that’s a piece of trivia when compared to the overall storyline, that he has a coveted chance to test his game at the big league level.

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