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  • 21 Oct 2014

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Eggers: 'Half Man, Half Amazing' life of tour party

by: COURTESY OF WEB.COM TOUR - Andres Gonzales, a native of Olympia, Wash., who played for UNLV, is battling for one of the coveted top 25 spots on the Web.com Tour, as that finish earns a bump up to the PGA Tour circuit.Andres Gonzales is, at various times, a scribe, an elephant devotee and the life of the party on the Web.com Tour.

Beyond that, the Olympia, Wash., native plays some serious golf, which will be on display Aug. 21 to 24 during the inaugural $800,000 WinCo Foods Portland Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course.

Gonzales will be in the thick of things in competition to claim 25 PGA Tour cards when 156 members of men’s pro golf’s second circuit tee it up at Witch Hollow in late August.

The 31-year-old Gonzales ranks 30th on the Web.com Tour money list with $67,865 in earnings. He needs to move up at least five spots by the conclusion of the Portland Open — the final of 21 regular-season tournaments on the tour — to earn what would be his third PGA Tour card since turning pro in 2006.

“I like where my game’s at,” Gonzales said this week during a media event at the Cornelius course. “I feel like I’m ready to break out and win. If I have fun playing, the scores will come and my money position will be just fine."

The 6-2, 235-pound Gonzales is an effervescent personality and a free spirit who began his college career at Oregon State. He lasted just one year in Corvallis.

“I had a little too much fun there,” he said. “I had my first little bit of freedom away from my parents. I was more into partying than I was school and golf and was asked to leave. I would have stayed there forever, because I loved Oregon State.”

So Gonzales transferred to Nevada-Las Vegas.

“I figured I could get away with more stuff,” he said. “But my dad put the fear of God into me once I got down there. I was there to play golf and go to school.”

Gonzales settled in, settled down and graduated from UNLV with a degree in journalism. “I consider myself a writer,” he said. “I keep a journal on tour. At some point I’d like to write something, but as for now, I’m having too much fun playing golf.”

Since turning pro, Gonzales has bounced between mini-tours, the Canadian Tour, the Web.com Tour and the PGA Tour, playing 38 tournaments and earning more than $386,000 on the latter circuit in 2011 and ‘13. Now he’s back on the Web.com Tour, playing well enough to finish in a tie for eighth in the Rex Hospital Open at Raleigh, N.C., two weeks ago with a 9-under-par 275. ying really consistent,” Gonzales said. “I’m giving myself chances. I haven’t gotten the ball in the hole quick enough to threaten for a win yet, but I’m giving myself opportunities.”

The goal, of course, is to get back on the PGA Tour with the best 125 players in the world.

“I’ve done it twice,” said Gonzales, who has won tournaments on the Gateway Tour, the Canadian Tour and the Nationwide (forerunner to the Web.com) Tour. “Since I turned professional, I’ve slowly improved each year. Once I get back out there, I see myself being there to stay.”

For now, he’s a proponent of the Web.com Tour, which features the second echelon of the world’s top pros.

“The tour’s a lot of fun,” Gonzales said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie. Everybody’s friends out here. We travel around with the same guys every week.

“We have some really good players. There were 18 guys from the Web.comTour playing the U.S. Open. Daniel Berger had the low round of the day on the final round. The difference in play between here and the PGA Tour is not that much. It’s just a matter of getting opportunities. Once guys get out there, they show how good this tour is.”

Gonzales is a bear of a man with the body of a football player.

“I broke my neck when I was 11,” he said. “That’s what got me into golf. I was never allowed to play football or wrestle — anything with contact, I couldn’t get cleared for by doctors. I’d probably be in the league right now, hitting people — maybe at fullback, blocking for Marshawn Lynch.

“But in a way, breaking my neck was fortunate. I enjoy what I do and I’m happy I got into golf.”

Gonzales has worn a fu manchu mustache for some time.

“I shaved it my senior year, because we had to be clean-shaven at UNLV,” he said. “Once I turned pro, I started it immediately again. Thought it was something funny. Nine years later, it’s still there.”

Gonzales has longish hair, but nothing like what he wore a few years back.

“I had some pretty long hair,” he said. “I’m thinking about growing it back. At the time, it was in memory of my dad, who passed away from pancreatic cancer (in 2007).

I grew it for a charity called ‘Locks for Love’ — 15 inches of it.”

Gonzales’ third annual charity event in memory of his father — Fred Gonzales — is Aug. 18 in what is now his hometown of Lakewood, Wash.

“We get about 15 pros to come in and have a pro-am and silent auction to benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the First Tee Junior Program, which helps children learn life skills through golf,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales has more than 24,000 thousand followers on Twitter (@andres_gonzales), where his avatar describes him as “Half Man, Half Amazing.” It’s not an ode to Vince Carter, by the way.

“It stems from an ‘And One’ basketball video (featuring Streetball player Anthony Heyward),” Gonzales said. “I thought it was funny.”

For a while, he drew attention with his tweets directed at Tiger Woods.

“That’s what got me the most into Twitter and the most followers,” he said. “I had an ongoing one-sided conversation with Tiger, with no response ever.

“It became a joke after a while. I told him I was a rookie on tour, that my favorite color is green, that I love elephants, that if he ever needed a roommate on tour I was there for him, so he could cut down on expenses. It was a lot of little stuff from a player not at his level — yet. Really, I was poking fun at myself more so than him.”

Gonzales has played Pumpkin Ridge “maybe a dozen times,” including the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2000.

“I love the course,” he said. “One of my three favorite anywhere. It’ll be the best course we play (on the Web.com Tour) all year. It’s going to be stout. The rough will be up. It’ll be a great track.”

Gonzales loves the idea of having another Web.com Tour tournament in the Northwest. Portland joins the Albertson’s Open in Boise on the circuit.

“In the summertime, we have great venues up here,” he said. “It’s not like the rest of the country, where it’s humid and hot and sweaty. We’ll have perfect weather. It would be great if we could get another one — maybe in the Seattle area — and have a Northwest swing.”

Gonzales isn’t complaining with the status quo, though.

“I get to come out here and live my dream and play golf,” he said. “I’m so fortunate to be able to make money doing something I love.”

NOTES: About three of every four PGA Tour pros trace their roots to the Web.com Tour. ... The WinCo Foods Portland Open will be staged at Witch Hollow, Pumpkin Ridge’s private 18 and will play to a par 71. No. 14, normally a par-5, will play to a par-4. ... The top 25 money-winners on the Web.com Tour through Portland will earn PGA cards for the 2015 season. In addition, 25 more players will earn PGA Tour cards off four Web.com Tour playoff events in late August and September. There is no longer a PGA qualifying school. The “Q school” now advances players to the Web.com Tour. “And we’re the final (regular-season) event, so 25 PGA Tour cards will be on the line here,” tournament director Jeff Sanders said. “That’s the most fun part of it for me.” ... The champion will reap $144,000, which might be enough to assure a top-25 Web.com Tour finish on its own. ... One hundred percent of ticket proceeds will go to Portland-area charities. Tickets are $25 for the week or $6.25 daily and may be purchased at WinCo golf.com. Parking is free.

Pro-am events will be staged Monday, Aug. 18, and Tuesday, Aug. 19. Play on Wednesday, Aug. 20, will feature practice rounds for the players, and it will be “Nike Junior Day,” with kids hitting shots and getting lessons from the participating Web.com pros. ... Tournament volunteers will receive free gear, be fed three meals and get VIP parking privileges, Sanders said. ... Free breakfast will be served to all spectators before the final round on Sunday, Aug. 24, compliments of sponsor General Mills. ... Sanders said 10 to 12 hospitality suites will be set up around the 18th green. ... The Golf Channel will carry live all four days of the tournament proper. ... Sanders said he expects the tournament’s economic impact for the area to be between $6 million to $8 million. “It’s more than just a golf tournament,” he said.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers