Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño

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Hi everyone. It’s final, I am once again a PGA Tour golfer! You can’t imagine how happy I am, without a doubt one of the moments I am most proud of in my professional career. In this life everything happens for a reason and I sincerely believe that my year in the Web.com Tour was good for me, really good for me. I will go into the PGA Tour better prepared than I was in 2013. I may not be playing better, but I’m much more confident in my capability. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing about the course of events.

Going over my last blog post, I’m surprised at how calm I was going into the finals. It’s true that I was playing really well at the time, but it’s also true that it was my last chance to recover the PGA Tour card. Perhaps the thought of having a very specific goal and knowing that if I didn’t achieve it I would do one more year in the Web.com, combined with the option of the European Tour, made me feel a bit more at ease. Strangely enough, in the finals I wasn’t hitting the ball as well as I had in previous weeks, but mentally I was solid as a rock. I was patient, calm and very confident in my game and capabilities. I remember the last holes of the tournament in Boise as if it were yesterday. After an incredible save from the bunker on the 15th hole which I polished off with a birdie, I knew I needed one more to end up in the top 10 and would practically secure the card. Everyone says you shouldn’t think about scores and results, but I can assure you that it’s nearly impossible not to look at the leaderboards during those moments. On the 16th, a short par 5, but where it was crucial to be on the fairway, I shot a very long drive to the center and a solid 8 iron just 7 meters from the flag. The golfer who was playing alongside me shot a similar putt along the same line and he hit it outside the green because of the steep angle. And what did I do right away? I left it short of course for birdie. On the 17th, par three also very short, I corrected the error well and I left it less than two meters out with the wedge, but I missed it again. The 18th was a short par 4, with a very elevated, tough green, which is why it was fundamental to be on the fairway. After an excellent opening shot with a 5 wood, it ended up at an uncomfortable distance as it was in between clubs. In the end I opted for a shorter club and I made a fantastic shot from the draw with the “gap-wedge”. The green wasn’t visible from the fairway which is why I had to go by the audience’s reaction as to how good or bad the shot was. The last two days I created options for birdie and the audience didn’t even make a sound, which is why when I heard the people cheering after my shot, I knew I had left it very very close, and that’s how I sealed the deal on my PGA Tour card. That was, without a doubt, the shot of the year for me.

The cancellation of the Web.com Tour Championship was a shame. I really wanted to play this week since I had been playing really well and I wanted to take advantage of the momentum and a great moment in my game as well as the peace of mind of having already secured the card to try to move up in the rankings. Additionally, since it was the only tournament that was going to be played close to home (Atlantic Beach is just 5 hours by car from Miami), Alicia and the kids were going to come see me play over the weekend and we were really excited at the thought.

But this country has some amazing things, and others not so great. One of them is the weather which is quite extreme. Here there is no in between. We are in full on hurricane season (it begins at the beginning of June and finishes at the end of November) but in the nearly three years that I’ve been in Miami we’ve never had a scare. On the eastern coast of Florida we got lucky less than a month ago when Hurricane Herminia changed its course and ended up coming in through the northeastern part of the state, but this time with Matthew it wasn’t meant to be and the tournament had to be suspended. I will never forget the faces of a lot of my fellow golfers when Bill Caffey broke the news to us in the players room. Luck was on my side that time but I think of the others and I understand their deep disappointment at having lost their last opportunity to be able to play in the PGA Tour next season.

What is crystal clear is that the decision, although difficult, was correct. The important thing in these situations is security and it makes no sense that when the authorities, conscious of the imminent danger, are having the area evacuated, that we are there playing in a golf tournament. It was strange to be practicing on Wednesday morning and the tournament organizers were taking down tents and stands, as well as signs and scoreboards. Something big was about to happen.

After hearing the news of the suspension, we immediately left our rental house where we were staying just around one hundred meters from the beach and, after packing our bags, we brought all the patio furniture into the house as the owner had asked and we also put sandbags in the doorways for the water. That was when I really started to realize the severity of the situation. A hurricane is no trivial matter and much less so a grade 4 hurricane. Just so you can get an idea, Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida and Disney World was closed today; the fourth day it has been closed since it opened in 1971!

The car ride was more quiet than I thought and after 5 hours of driving I’m finally home, where according to the hurricane forecast, it’s not going to hit. We are on alert for a tropical storm, which means lots of wind and rain are expected, with a possible tornado and flooding, especially where we live, since it’s an island. I feel better now that I’m here with Alicia and the kids, I wouldn’t have wanted them to be alone for it.

And as they’ve told me: the calm after the storm. Or perhaps not, because in my case on Monday I start the PGA Tour already with a trip to Napa, California for the Safeway Open. My 12th position in the finals allows me to play in practically all the tournaments from now until the end of the year, except for the two in Asia. Very important due to the fact that we have to go through a re-ranking every 6 tournaments, which is why it’s important to have as many opportunities to accumulate dollars as possible. That being said, my plan these next few months is to play in the Sanderson FArms Championship (Jackson, Mississippi), Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (Las Vegas, Nevada), OHL Classic at Mayakoba (Playa del Carmen, Mexico) and the RSM Classic (Sea Island, Georgia).

I wanted to take the opportunity in this post to thank everyone who has helped me along the way: my coaches Randy Smith and Jose Carlos Gutierrez; my caddie, Javier “Chino” Corbalan; my physical therapist, Michael Garrett: my psychologist, Arturo Tenacio; my agents, Rocky Hambir and Blake Smith and of course my family, who has always believed in me and encouraged me to continue to fight for my dream of returning to the PGA Tour. I would also like to thank all of you for your continual support and caring gestures.

As I said before, I wouldn’t change a thing.