Carlos Ortiz, the up-and-coming professional golfer from Guadalajara, Mexico, turned heads in his first year on the Web.com Tour. He picked up two wins in the spring and just notched his third in the season finale at the inaugural WinCo Foods Portland Open. He’s ranked 123rd in the world and will play on the PGA Tour next season.
Ortiz grew up in a family of golfers and was exposed to the sport at an early age. He played his collegiate golf at the University of North Texas before turning pro in 2013.
CBS Local Sports checked in with Ortiz to talk about his career and where he likes to play.
CBS Local Sports: What is your favorite golf course and why?
Ortiz: My favorite golf course is the Alotian Golf Course just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. It’s one of the best ones I’ve ever played. You’re on top of a mountain and the views are fantastic. You don’t see anything but trees and a lake (Lake Maumelle). It’s a difficult course, and the greens are in perfect condition – it’s like what I imagine Augusta National to be as far as the conditions and the speed of the greens. You don’t see a single divot anywhere. I think it’s probably in better condition than the front lawn of the White House.
I played the 2013 Western Amateur there and happened to play well there, and that’s helps as to why I like it so much. I finished second there. I was runner-up to Sebastian Cappelen, who went to Arkansas. That was a big tournament for me. Everything is perfect there. The practice facility is great as well. You look out over the lake from a big hill and there are all different kinds of grass to hit from and from many different levels.
CBS Local Sports: What is your favorite hole and why?
Ortiz: I haven’t played a competitive tournament there yet, but my favorite hole is the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass. When you’re under pressure and playing in THE PLAYERS Championship and you get on the tee knowing you can’t bail out to the left and you can’t bail out to the right. It’s a really good test to finish well there under that kind of pressure. The hole requires a perfect drive and then you have a difficult second shot to the green. I think that’s what a finishing hole in golf should look like. I’ve played the course before and I’ve seen the tournament on television so I know how tight it is and what kind of shots you need to hit, but I can’t wait to play that hole in the final grouping in a tournament.
CBS Local Sports: How did you get interested in golf?
Ortiz: My whole family plays golf, and when you’re young you want to join in. My Dad was playing golf and so I wanted to play like him. I started with plastic clubs and balls in the park, and eventually my Dad started taking me to the course on Sundays to play. When I was old enough I started going to classes (lessons) with a pro and picking up the game. Eventually I started playing with some friends who were my age. It eventually led to me playing some tournaments and then escalated into playing college golf.
I probably got serious about things when I was 10 or 11. It was about the time I started feeling nervous in a tournament. I never had that feeling before, and then I started feeling nervous and pressure and that really got my attention. You don’t have a lot of good finishes in golf. You actually lose more often than win. Everybody loses more than you win when it comes to tournaments.
The first time you achieve one of your goals you get this feeling, almost like an addiction and then you just want to keep going. You have new goals and new addictions to accomplish more. It’s hard to stop. The better you get, the more goals you have. I’m still going. I keep putting more and more goals on my list and hope to achieve them. It’s hard to stop. Every time you reach one goal you make another one and try to achieve that one. It’s a lot of fun.
CBS Local Sports: Who has had the biggest influence on your golf career and why?
Ortiz: My Dad and my Grandpa were the first ones. I started playing golf because of them. I grew up watching Lorena Ochoa at our golf club. That was pretty big for me. She was an idol of mine and all the people of Mexico, and I was able to watch her from up close. I got to see her how hard she practiced every day and how dedicated she was to getting better, but it was also how humble she was.
When you have an opportunity to talk to her, it’s amazing. She is such a nice person and willing to spend time with you whenever she can. She invites you to play 9 holes or putt with her and she makes it fun – and sometimes she’ll play you for chips or a soda and that helps you get used to playing under a little bit of pressure. She’s just a really, really nice person and she’s always been there for me. She emailed recently after I won in Portland and wrote to me about my round and how excited she was to watch. She’s just the kind of person you look up, not just as a golfer but as a person.
CBS Local Sports: What’s been the biggest moment in your career to date and why?
Ortiz: Probably the biggest moment was winning my first tournament in Panama at the start of this year. I topped that with my win in Mexico, and then I came through with my third win out in Portland. They were all very important to me, but if I had to pick one it would be winning the tournament in Mexico, because I was able to play well in front of my family and my friends in my home country. It was a big deal for everybody there, and it was a big deal for me to come through that week because I had a lot of extra pressure.
Playing on the Web.com Tour has been terrific for me. It has given me a great opportunity for me to realize that I am capable of competing at the highest level. Being able to win out here has given me the confidence that I can compete at the highest level. This Tour has prepared me for playing on the PGA Tour, and it helps me to understand that I can compete and play well at this level.
The third win was almost as big as the win in Mexico because I needed to prove myself again. I was kind of stuck there in the middle of the season and coming through with all that pressure was big for me. I knew there was a lot of pressure, and I didn’t sleep well on Saturday night before the last round. Those last 9 holes took a lot out of me. To come through under those conditions was important. Adam (Hadwin) did a nice job of pushing me during the last day, and I was proud of how I handled things. I did my best not to think about the future and what the win might mean. I just tried to finish strong.
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