After turning professional following my college graduation from the University of Notre Dame in May 2012, I bounced around playing in mini-tour events and state opens for my first summer. I decided to try and qualify for the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica NEC Series in February, not really knowing what to expect. As a first-year professional, an English-speaking American, and first-time visitor to nearly every country we visited, I entered this Tour with a lot of unknowns. In reality, my decision to go to the Qualifying School in February has proven to be one of the best decisions of my life.
The first event in Mexico City last March, the 55o Abierto Mexicano de Golf, remains my favorite event thus far. We competed at one of the nicest courses in Mexico in one of the most interesting cities I have visited. The tournament gave me so much to be excited about for this tour. There were grandstands, thousands of spectators, the course was immaculate and it felt like a PGA TOUR event. The location of the event, Mexico City, made the experience even better. I had never been, and the city was so rich with culture, beauty, and great food.
During this trip I explored the historic district, Polanco, and the Basilica of Guadalupe, which was spectacular. But for me, the food on this trip was over the top. On my first night there, I travelled by myself to the restaurant Azul Condesa, a Ricardo Munoz Zurita restaurant. Chef Zurita is considered one of the godfathers of Mexican cuisine as he is not only a chef, but a noted historian of his ancestral cuisine as well. Traveling alone in a city I had never visited was a little scary at first but as soon as I arrived to the restaurant I knew it was well worth the hike. He prides himself on embracing the oldest, most cherished Mexican techniques and recipes, while at the same time adapting to new technology and trends to keep the food modern. He did not disappoint, and it was my favorite meal of the week. Mexico City has really started to garner international recognition for its cuisine and Azul Condesa is a great example of that. From street food to haute cuisine, the city had it all and it really made for a memorable trip.
A close second favorite destination was Montevideo, Uruguay for the Roberto de Vicenzo Invitational Copa NEC. Prior to arriving in Mexico City, I had received a lot of recommendations as to places to visit and eat. That wasn’t really the case in Montevideo, as most people I had talked to seemed not to know too much about the Uruguayan capital. Well, take it from me, Montevideo is worth a visit no matter who you are. If you love golf, the Alistair Mackenzie gem we played, Club de Golf Uruguay, was an interesting, fun course that just about any passionate golfer would appreciate. The coastal city was gorgeous, with tons of old European influenced architecture and great beaches. And finally, the food. My goodness, the food was amazing. Situated between Brazil and Argentina, Montevideo seems to bring the best of both worlds. With meat that is second to none, there is no doubt that I had some of the best parillada I will ever have in my life.
What made this Tour so special for me and my friends, was being able to experience this journey together. Even when times were bad after a missed cut or horrendous travel day, at the end of it all we were all there for each other and it was a great time. A great example of this was on my trip to Pereira, Colombia. After a flight from Montevideo to Lima and Lima to Bogota, all we had was a little 45 minute flight over to the tournament host city, Pereira. Should be easy, right? Well, when traveling in Colombia during the tropical season, the weather can quickly adjust whatever travel plans you may have had. The flight took off on time, we flew around for a while, and then we landed. The only problem was we didn’t land in Pereira – we landed in a different city! After making an emergency landing due to storms, I was now stranded in the Colombian city of Armenia along with 20 fellow players and some of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Tour staff. Six hours to spend in an airport is a long time! We did everything, cards, TV shows, music and anything else we could think of. Eventually we had to give up on flying to Pereira, and the airline arranged to have buses drive us there. After about 24 hours of travel from start to finish, we finally arrived at our hotel. In the end, it made for one of the best stories and greatest times I’ve had while on Tour.
Whether it was the tens of thousands of miles that we flew, the obstacle of language as we tried to get to our hotel, or just exploring different neighborhoods and sites of the cities in which we competed, this Tour gave me stories and memories that I will remember for a lifetime. I can’t wait for the second half of the season to get started and I know that it will not disappoint as we travel to cities such as Lima, Santiago, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires.
After each week I write a blog post about the course, city and food for that event – check it out at maxscodrogolf.blogspot.com or follow me on Twitter @mscodro.