Fernando Arzate: You Have to Play Good Golf in Mexico
Golf at its Best
How did your love for golf begin? How many professional golf courses are there in Mexico?
If there is one sport in which age does not seem to be a barrier, that is golf. This is widely demonstrated by young Fernando Arzate, who at 27 years of age is already a personality in the world of Mexican professional golf. In this field he is considered among the 40 best athletes, a merit to be taken into account after knowing that the country has more than 220 golf courses for the practice of this discipline and about 25 thousand players affiliated to the Mexican Golf Federation (FMG), organization that has provided the figures to the newspaper Milenio. The states of Mexico, Jalisco, Quintana Roo, Baja California Sur and Guerrero, concentrate the largest amount of land, of which 65% is private and 35% is for tourism. Approximately 40% of the total were built in beach areas. Arzate, who started playing at the age of seven, has participated in national and international tournaments. After his amateur career (child-juvenile) he obtained a threeyear scholarship at Bellevue University, in Nebraska, United States, where he became the No.1 of the team. After graduating in 2019 he returned to Mexico, where he became a professional player during the Pro MX Golf Tour that same year. "Now we are practicing full time to try to advance to the PGA Latin America," he tells us as we begin this interview. The PGA Tour Latinoamérica is the men's professional golf circuit in the region. My beginnings were a little strange because since I was a kid, I was about seven years old, my dad instilled in me the world of golf, but at the same time in Mexico it is very typical to play soccer, so I played both. But the truth is that I never really liked golf that much. It was a sport I used to go to with my dad and my uncle on Sunday mornings, and obviously it wasn't fun because my friends weren't around. At the age of 12 I remember well that I was on a team and we went on a trip to Europe for an international tournament. In the semi-final I hurt my back a lot, to the point that I couldn't even run anymore. I arrived in Mexico a little scared because I didn't know if soccer was going to be what I wanted in my life. So I decided to wait with my dad, leave that in transit, and I got into golf a little more. I started to play regional and national tournaments, to travel..., then I started to win and they started to invite me to international tournaments, like the one in Canada and New York representing Mexico. There came a point when the question of "I have no friends" started to pass, because I already had. I couldn't give you an exact figure. The truth is that here where I am, in Guadalajara, it seems to me that we have around 10 or 12 courses. The thing is that, fortunately, they are becoming a little more public, because before most of them were private. In Mexico you could not play in them unless you were invited by a member and you had to pay, so it was a little bit difficult to play. That has been changing. An expert told us that there are no more than 70 professional golf courses in Mexico, which is what a single city in the United States has. The difference is that most of the courses there are public. What makes a golf course attractive to a professional? There are some important variables to make the course attractive. For example, in the case of the Mexican Golf Tour, which is a big tour, they are in charge of seeing and analyzing those that are suitable for us. Obviously, the possibility of us going to some parts of the Mexican Republic implies that the partners authorize, or that they see an opportunity for us to go for a full week, because most of the courses are private. But once we borrow them, you realize that there are a lot of very good courses here. In fact, we are going to participate in a tournament at the Club Campestre de León, which is a great course. What does it take to be a professional golfer and participate in the PGA Tour Latinoamérica? In Mexico it is a little different from the United States, where if you play a tournament as a professional you just have to sign and say "I am a professional and I am going to play as a professional". Here it is a little bit different. If you play this tour, there is a qualifier called Qualifying School, where you pay and you enter -like this year- around 70 people. After the sum of three days, competing, where the best see your results, you get a full time card on the tour. That means you can play all the tournaments of the Mexican tour season. I did that in 2019. Once I graduated from college I went back to Mexico. I was determined to pursue that career as a golf professional. I have been ranked in the top 40 in the Mexican rankings. How many professional tournaments are held in Mexico and how many of them do you participate in? The Mexican Golf Tour consists of about 10 tournaments plus the final. There are other tournaments, some in Mexico and some in Latin America. Depending on what ranking you are in the Mexican Tour they give you some invitations to Latin America or you can go to qualify directly. I have been twice in the playoffs and lost, but nothing, they are situations in which you learn a lot, even to control your emotions. Internationally, what has been the most relevant tournament for you? I represented Mexico in two international tournaments. One was as an individual, it is called Junior Master and it is played in Buffalo, New York. It is a very good quality tournament, there were people from all over the world and you realize where you are. In fact, there is a regional tournament here called Interzone [National Interzone Championship "Lorena Ochoa"] and whoever wins as a team goes to this other tournament in Canada, which is also attended by Colombia, Argentina, the USA .... Your most important achievement? Many. When I was in college I had three wins. It's not easy to win in the U.S., but when I did it was very gratifying. There's something called "Hello, America," which the U.S. Soccer Association awards to players in any sport. To get to be able to say that you were a "Hello, America," means that you had a very good result as a college player. As a professional, last year I got my best result as a professional which was 3rd place in Queretaro. Golf has recently joined the Olympics. How does this add to the sport? I think there are many good tournaments, but if you can say that you went to the Olympics and represented your country, that is one of the greatest emotions that sport can give you. It is a dream to represent your country at the Olympics. I had the chance to represent Mexico in some tournaments, and the truth is that it's really nice to be able to put its name on high. But getting to the Olympics is by world ranking. That's what we work for. What was the most exciting moment for you? The biggest thrill was when I won my first tournament in the United States. I had it very much in my mind and I was determined. After I won it was a total relief. I think that first victory was not the hardest, but the most satisfying, because you don't know if you have the level and you prove yourself. How much does golf absorb you personally? A lot of people don't understand how difficult it is. Golf is a sport that requires a lot of mental work, but some people think it's just throwing balls. I started to understand that I had to put a little more time in all my areas, so I hired a physical trainer, psychologist, golf coach... You start to get involved in several areas until you see the results. It's a little bit exhausting sometimes, because as a young person you have your life apart and you want to go out, but sometimes you can't because as a professional you understand where the line is and there are things that matter more. What is your next goal? To enroll in a PGA Latin America qualifying school and continue competing in the Mexican Tour, where there are lots of levels and you have to play very good golf.