At the tender age of 13, Alex Estrada already shoots a better round of golf than most of his adult counterparts. And most of them have been playing golf for longer than Alex has been alive.
Alex has been playing golf for about 11 years. According to his grandfather, Ray Torres, Alex picked up a plastic club and ball when he was barely old enough to walk.
“Alex started playing when he was two or three years old,” Torres said. “He has always shown a lot of interest in golf, and, as long as he keeps showing interest, I’ll keep supporting him.”
Alex is one of the best young golfers in the state. He has finished in the top 10 in all 13 Sun Country Junior PGA tournaments he has entered this year. His golf skills earned him a spot in the Junior World Championships last weekend in San Diego.
Alex sent in an application, and his 7.4 handicap and 79-shot average on his home course, Tierra Del Sol, were good enough to get him an invitation to the tourney. Alex finished in the middle of the pack at the tourney, which featured players from all over the United States and the World.
“I did OK,” Alex said, “I finished in the middle of the pack, but I could have played better.
“It was a big difference playing out there. There were kids shooting 65s at the tourney, and, for a 13-year-old, that’s pretty good.”
On top of the honor of playing at such a prestigious event, Alex received a shock and an even greater honor at the flag parade when he was designated to carry the New Mexico state flag.
“It was cool; I really liked carrying the flag,” Alex said.
“He was smiling from ear-to-ear when he brought the flag in,” his grandfather said.
Despite the success he has had up to this point, Alex is not kicking back. He is pushing harder every day toward his goal of playing on the PGA Tour. But don’t expect him to be the next Ty Tryon. Alex is planning to play in college at either Stanford, where Notah Begay and Tiger Woods once played, or at Arizona, before hitting qualifying school. Alex spends anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to two hours at the golf course every day, practicing or beating up on the older players at the course.
“Right now, I need to work mainly on my accuracy and my chipping,” Alex said. “I need to practice going straight at the hole instead of always playing a fade or a draw into the hole.”
According to Torres, course management is also a major concern for Alex in preparing for his career.
“He’s working on playing the ball for his next shot, not just hitting the shot at hand,” Torres said.
As is the case with most golf fans these days, Alex cites Tiger Woods as one of his favorite players. But contrary to the norm, he also said that Gary Player is one of his favorites. There aren’t many 13-year-olds who even know who Gary Player is.
“I have a Gary Player video I have been watching since I was 5,” Alex said. “Anytime I fall off on something, I watch that tape and get right back on it.”
Though he admits there are a few things he needs to work on, he also admits that there aren’t many golfers his own age that are better than he is.
“There are a couple of 15-year-olds who are ahead of me right now,” Alex said. “They’ve been playing in high school, and they know how to manage a tournament better than I do.”
Speaking of high school golf, Alex isn’t sure about whether he’ll play in the high school ranks or not. Alex goes to La Mesa Christian School now and said that, when he turns 15 or 16, he may bypass high school golf for the American Junior Golf Association.
“Around 15 or 16, I’ll start playing in the AJGA.” Estrada said. “It’s like high school, but there’s more competition, and I’ll be playing all over America. I will also be competing with 18- and 19-year-olds, which should be a good experience.”
Estrada also lends his skills to other sports: he plays junior varsity basketball at Las Mesa and loves playing chess.