Originally published on Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Javier Sanchez received a phone call Wednesday informing him of his upcoming induction into the California Golf Hall of Fame.
Sanchez will travel to Redwood City for the ceremony in June.
Sanchez's first visit to the city was quite a bit different.
"I knew nothing about golf," Sanchez said. "I didn't speak a word of English and I was illegal."
Sanchez relaxed in his golf cart after shooting a 71 in the opening round of the Texas Senior Open on a sunny Wednesday at the Victoria Country Club.
But there was no way Sanchez could have foreseen a future that included playing in eight U.S. Opens when he left his parents' farm in Mexico at the age of 17, traveled to Juarez and paid $50 to borrow a green card before crossing the border to live with his uncle.
Sanchez got a job in a restaurant and became the cook when his boss bought a restaurant on a golf course. He took an interest in the game and at the age of 21, scraped together $150 to buy a set of clubs.
"I had no clue what people were doing out there," he said. "One thing led to another, I got golf clubs and started practicing and within a year and a half, I was shooting in the 70s."
Sanchez took a few lessons, but basically taught himself to play.
He was a scratch golfer within three years and shot 65 the first time he broke 70.
"The setting, the green, growing up in the mountains of Mexico, I was used to being out on a farm," he said. "I was used to being outside and being cooped up in a kitchen wasn't for me. I guess that's what motivated me to learn how to play and I love it."
He learned to speak English while taking classes at Redwood City Junior College.
He became a member of the school's golf team and won the California state championship as a junior golfer.
"I don't have a pretty swing or anything like that but it doesn't matter," Sanchez said. "What matters is what's on the scoreboard - that number. I just go about my business and do my work and that's it."
Sanchez turned pro in 1992 and his first appearance in the U.S. Open came in 1993.
He was the first alternate and got the call while playing in a tournament in St. Louis.
He arrived in New Jersey hours before teeing off at Baltusrol. He missed the cut, but went on to play in four consecutive U.S. Opens and was once paired with Peter Jacobsen.
Sanchez, 53, has become a U.S. citizen and currently resides in Fayetteville, Ga.
He competes on the Sunbelt Senior Tour, where he won two tournaments and was the leading money winner.
He recently finished fourth among 55 golfers in a qualifying school tournament for the Champions Tour.
He advanced to the finals in Coral Springs, Fla., and can earn his conditional tour card by finishing in the top five.
"It's a very challenging game," Sanchez said. "It's just you and the golf course. You take responsibility for what you do. You can't blame anyone else. I like the competitive part of it. You're competing against the golf course. I mean you're competing against the field, but if you compete against a golf course, you can beat a lot of guys."
Sanchez was not happy after three-putting the final hole on Monday and falling into a four-way tie for seventh.
But considering his life-long journey, six golfers and four strokes are not too much to overcome.
"There is plenty of opportunity," Sanchez said. "If you really want it, you can achieve anything. You've just got to work at it. I worked hard. All I know is work. I work hard because growing up in Mexico all I did is work."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.