Olympia native Andres Gonzales brings fun to the game of golf
The Olympia native is known best for his humorous tweets, but his success this season on the Nationwide Tour has him in strong contention for a 2013 PGA card.
Special to The Seattle Times
Think modern golfers are all bland, country-club clones? Then you haven't met Andres Gonzales.
Gonzales, 29, is an Olympia native who calls himself "Half Man, Half Amazing."
He got the attention of ESPN columnist Rick Reilly last year after qualifying for the U.S. Open. Reilly described him as "more fun than a boxful of puppies."
Gonzales is best known for his fanciful tweets to Tiger Woods, who never has responded.
"Been awake since 3 a.m. @TigerWoods you awake yet? Let's chat."
Gonzales doesn't expect Woods to ever reply but says, "I know he knows about it."
The Reilly column gave Gonzales media exposure and undoubtedly helped him get a sponsor's exemption into the HP Byron Nelson Championship outside Dallas last month. The invitation was extended with a tweet:
"Hey @Andres Gonzales want to come to Texas? How 'bout May 14-20 for #HPBNC? The fans have spoken and they want you here!"
He shot a first-round 66 and finished tied for 19th, earning a $78,780 check. He flew home to compete in the Washington Open Invitational at Glendale Country Club in Bellevue the next day. He tied for fifth in the three-day event and gave his winnings — $3,750 — to the tournament charity, Camp Korey in Carnation. He also said he would donate his earnings from future appearances at the event.
During the tournament, he also played a Tuesday afternoon round "for fun" at the Members Club at Aldarra near Fall City.
"I'm a golf junkie," he said, adding that he was using a motorized cart for his golf that week to stay as fresh as possible.
Gonzales wears a super Fu Manchu mustache that has become his trademark. He also grows his hair longer than most rock stars. The long hair has a purpose. It gets whacked every so often and given to a cancer charity to make wigs for patients.
Gonzales lost his father, Frederick, a Sammamish High School graduate who played baseball at Seattle University, to pancreatic cancer in 2007. Pancreatic cancer killed a grandfather of Gonzales' wife, Kristin, in 2001.
Gonzales looks like the character Kenny Powers from the HBO series "Eastbound & Down," and some fans have yelled "Kenny Powers!" at him during tournaments.
Gonzales was on the PGA Tour last year and didn't retain his card. This year, he is the No. 3 money winner ($197,845) on the Nationwide Tour, thanks to a victory in the Soboda Golf Classic in California in April and a second-place finish earlier in the year. He looks like a lock to finish in the top 25 and if he does, he gets a PGA Tour card for 2013.
Gonzales, who is 6 feet 2 and 240 pounds, has a football body but never got to play high-school football. He broke a vertebrae in his neck jumping out of a boat into 3 feet of water when he was 11 years old and doctors decreed, "No football, no wrestling."
That left baseball and soccer, but at age 13 Gonzales began to be smitten with golf, especially when he picked up clubs after about four years away from the game and beat his athletic father, who was by day an endodontist (root-canal specialist).
In high school, Gonzales helped Capital High to the state Class 3A golf title in 1999, and as a senior in 2001 he finished second behind future pro Ryan Moore of Puyallup in the 4A championship.
Gonzales went off to Oregon State and had a flameout of a freshman year, both in the classroom and on the golf course.
"I enjoyed myself too much," he admitted.
A "sit down with my father" followed the lost year in Corvallis.
Moore, now an established Tour veteran after one of the greatest amateur careers in history, was instrumental in Gonzales transferring to UNLV. Once in Las Vegas, Gonzales said he had to sign a contract "saying I wouldn't miss class, wouldn't be late for anything and wouldn't get below a 3.0."
He met those standards and credits his roommate/teammate Moore, who was disciplined in everything from classroom work to golf practices.
"He did things the right way," Gonzales told one interviewer. "He practiced hard. He worked hard in school. I saw how things were done and started to get on track."
Gonzales studied journalism at UNLV, and after college played mini-tours and the Canadian Tour, where he won the Saskatchewan Open in 2009. After earning his PGA Tour card for 2011 at qualifying school, he made nine of 21 cuts, his best finish a tie for 16th. He finished 192nd on the money list with $186,847. The top 125 kept their cards.
Gonzales and his wife live in Lakewood near his current home course, Tacoma Country and Golf Club. They are both Olympia natives and met when they were 12.
They own a Great Dane.
"It was either that or a horse," he joked.
In a sport where humor gets appreciated, Gonzales could turn out to be special if his game can match his wit.
"I'd like to get some more notoriety for golf instead of Twitter," he said.
That might be on the way.