The 78th Arizona Open Championship started on Monday.
156 amateurs, PGA professionals and non-PGA professionals took part in the first of two rounds, with the second on Tuesday. After the second round on Tuesday, the field for the final round on Wednesday will be shortened to below the top 50.
Colton Estevez hopes to be one of those 50 golfers and become the Arizona State Champion.
He turned pro immediately after graduating from Grand Canyon University, which was a dream before he even knew the game.
“I was about a year old, I could just walk, and my father was swinging balls in the backyard. Somehow I got out of there and took one of his clubs that was bigger than me and made my first real swing, “said Estevez.” He (his father) said, “You know what, I think it’s that one Time to bring you into play. ‘”
His path to pro status wasn’t a straight shot down the fairway. Estevez first played as a pro at the State Championship three years ago, then took a year off to work at the Ocotillo Golf Club in Chandler. Now he’s back.
“There were times when I wanted to give up this game but I couldn’t leave it. I was proud of myself that I didn’t stop.”
“I consider this year to be the beginning,” he said. “It’s going to be a grind, it’s going to be a journey. I can’t get too mad out there as I basically took a full year off. I didn’t know if I wanted to play again. There will be highs, there will be lows, you just have to take one step at a time. “
Estevez’s free year happened to coincide with COVID-19 and, unlike many people during the pandemic, did best for his game.
“I worked through COVID-19 and practiced a lot. It actually helped somehow because nobody came to the course and only me. I’ve been playing and practicing through COVID-19, “he said.
Without competing for a year, Estevez has struggled to have confidence in himself to play at the highest level.
“After a year off, I haven’t played a lot so I’m just trying to get that confidence to know that I can and stay with these guys out there,” he said.
Family means everything to Estevez, and their support only inspires him to grow even bigger.
“We wouldn’t do that if we didn’t believe in it. This is now his time to take his picture. We are 100 percent behind him, “said his father Jeoff Estevez.
“Of course we’d love to see him on the big tour, but we’re just glad he’s making the trip.”
Estevez finished 1-over on Monday at 71, tied in 68th place. Inigo Izuzquiza of Coronado, California led with an 8-under 62 and Luke Kristo of Phoenix is second with a 6-under 64.
Estevez will tee off at 8 a.m. on Monday and switch to Tuesday afternoon at 12:45 p.m. The morning heat may be less strenuous, but the afternoon is best for Estevez’s mindset, which benefits from extra sleep and rest.
He knows what needs to be improved if he is to make the cut for the final round.
“Get a lot more putts rolling,” said Estevez. “I have to do a lot more putts… I just have to stick to my schedule and you know, I’ll be there in a minute.