March 28, 2014
Jose Mendez, a freshman on the Gopher men’s golf team, earned medalist honors at the Duck Invite in Creswell, Ore., earlier this week. Mendez shot a three-under-par 213 over three days, tying him for first in the field.
The following is an excerpt from a feature piece titled “Far From Typical” which profiles Mendez’s unique journey from Costa Rica to Minnesota and his incredible golf career to-date.
Be sure to check out the entire piece, as well as other great articles about outstanding Gopher student-athletes and teams, in the April 2014 issue of Ski-U-Mah, which be available in print at Gopher Athletics venues and online at GopherSports.com next week.
Mendez would like to be a part of building the sport of golf back home in Costa Rica.
“I love to help people. I love to help young kids. When I went home in the winter, some friends were like ‘Can you help me with this?’ and I said ‘I would love to help you’ because I want to help my country to be recognized for golf. It’s not big (right now) but when I won the Callaway in July, I think that was huge to make kids more interested in golf.”
Costa Rica doesn’t have a strong history of golf on the world stage. Mendez became the first Costa Rican to ever win the Callaway World Junior Golf Championships. There has never been a PGA Tour golfer from Costa Rica. Mendez wants to change that.
“I hope to go professional. I hope to play on the PGA Tour,” said Mendez.
Mendez’s talent and accomplishments to this point certainly fit the resume of a future professional. He has skills that translate to the pro game and his head coach points out that some of those skills draw the attention of his peers.
“He has soft hands and he’s a great ball-striker. You see it around the greens,” noted Carlson. “Even our seniors are watching him.”
Senior Jon Trasamar, the team’s captain, agrees that Mendez brings abilities beyond most freshmen.
“He ups the level of competitiveness on the team,” said Trasamar. “He’s 18 years old and he’s shooting good scores and he’s hitting great shots. He brought it right away. From the first tournaments of the year he was bringing his game. We all knew he was a great player but he’s showing as time goes on that he really is a great player.”
As he was with his friends last winter in Costa Rica, Mendez is happy to share his approach with his teammates in Minnesota.
“He cares about the other players,” said Carlson. “He’s got such a big personality. He doesn’t just hang out with freshmen, which is what you see sometimes. He’s drawn everyone in.”
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The University of Minnesota moved up to 12th place thanks to three Gophers with rounds under par.
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