March 21, 2014
WASHINGTON - Like most college golfers, former Georgetown men's golf team captain Brandon Ellis (B'11) has a dream of playing on the PGA Tour. He dreams of hearing his name announced at Augusta during the Master's or at a U.S. Open.
He knew he has to start somewhere. And this weekend, that somewhere is Guadalajara, Mexico, where Ellis, who helped lead the Hoyas to the 2010 BIG EAST Championship, is playing as a member of the PGA Latin America.
"I've been living in Scottsdale (Arizona) since I graduated and they have some really good mini tours and professional tournaments in that area that give you the opportunity to play and get better," Ellis said recently from the airport in Miami after making his PGA Latin America Tour debut in Colombia. "But the hard part with that is there's no way to advance yourself. You're treading water at best."
Ellis learned of the chance to play on the PGA Latin America Tour when the PGA made a decision to add two developmental tours in 2012, including the now-defunct Tour de los Americas. The PGA Latin America Tour feeds into the web.com Tour or the PGA
In order to make the PGA Latin America Tour, Ellis played in a qualifying event, finishing in 27th place with a 4-over par (72-76-73-71) 292 at the Sun N Lake Golf Club in Sebring, Florida in January. By finishing among the top 25 percent in the field of more than 130 golfers, Ellis earned his way on to the Tour.
"It's good to know and to say that I'm a member of the Tour," Ellis said. "I had to get through that qualifying tournament and there are 16 tournaments this year, so if I do well, it's a good way to work your way up and advance to another tour. It's a good feeder system and it's developed to get guys to the PGA Tour who are in my position. It's a great opportunity."
Going through the qualifying, a four-day event, was daunting but Ellis had some experience, having going through it last year and missing the cut.
"It was daunting and it's a lot of pressure," he explained. "You really only get once chance a year to do it. It's either make it or you're back to the mini-tours and that's a stark reality."
"I had gone down to the Q School last year, but I felt pretty confident in my ability this year after having gone through it. I was familiar with the course and what I needed to do so on my second go-round, I felt pretty good about it."
Having made the Tour, the next challenge for Ellis was the travel. He lives in Arizona and all of the events will be held in South America. The Tour is split into two halves, starting now until the end of May and then picking up against in October. His travels will take him to Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
"The travel is a huge thing to have to get used to," he said. "The way the mini tours work is that you base yourself out of Arizona or Florida and you're hitting local courses. Now I'm having 16-hour travel days and I'm visiting different countries and culture. It's a big adjustment."
Another adjustment will be the language barrier. He will be assigned a caddy at each tournament and each will be local. At his first event, the caddy spoke little English, though Ellis says he is quickly picking up his Spanish.
"You can't really do quiet communication on the golf course," he laughed. "My Spanish is okay, but I need to get better. There's a language barrier with the caddies, but you hope you can pick up and understanding like I did my first weekend. It ended up being a cool experience."
Ellis missed the cut in his first PGA Latin America Tour event, shooting 74-69 and tying for 88th place at the Arturo Calle Colombian Open last month. "I didn't do as well as I'd like, but I came back in the second round and missed the cut by a couple of shot," Ellis said. "After playing in the first event, I can take away some positives and I think I can have a great season on the Tour. There are some things I need to get better at, but I'm positive."
Ellis knows he'll face a lot of challenges in the coming months. Whether it is the travel or the communication, the one thing he's focused on is that he's still pursuing a dream.
"It's really awesome," Ellis said. "It was a big step getting this chance. It's a great opportunity to have this life experience. I'm getting to play golf on a really amazing tour and getting to meet some great people. This is what I've worked for and practice for and I'm just excited for the opportunity."