Web.com Player Of The Year Carlos Ortiz Begins PGA Tour Career
Former Mean Green Golfing Great Opens Up Play At Fry's.com Open
April 27, 2011. If you were in Alabama that day, you won’t soon forget it.
The North Texas men’s golf team was in Muscle Shoals, playing in the Sun Belt Conference Championship. After two rounds of play, then-sophomore Carlos Ortiz had a commanding lead over the field and was well on his way to wrapping up the title. Then Mother Nature intervened with some of the fiercest weather ever seen.
The harrowing times for the golf team climaxed that day when their American Airlines MD-80 was barreling down the Huntsville International Airport runway when the plane - instead of a smooth takeoff – made a quick left turn to head back to the terminal. A tornado, one of hundreds to ravage the state that day, was headed towards the airport.
Once back at the gate, the plane was evacuated in mere seconds and passengers sent running across the tarmac to the terminal to take cover. After 15 minutes of hiding in the bathroom, the all clear was given and passengers and pilots like came out to survey the situation. North Texas men’s golf coach Brad Stracke gathered his team around to make sure everyone was okay. Ortiz, always quick witted, chimed in with his assessment of the situation.
“We don’t have any food, we don’t have anything to drink, we are all going to die here,” he exclaimed. Everyone burst into laughter. It was perfectly timed tension killer that Ortiz was known for.
Three and a half years later, Ortiz will face a different sort of tension Thursday as he begins his career on the PGA Tour at the Frys.com Open.
“I didn't expect to get to the PGA at the beginning, but, after my first tournament when I finished third, I realized I could be on the tour next season,” said Ortiz. “After my first win I knew for sure I could be there and belonged.”
The rise of Ortiz was stunningly rapid and quick. How quick? He ended the 2013 season as the 1,508th ranked golfer in the world. Now, as the 2014-15 PGA season begins, Ortiz is ranked 130th. That’s a move of 1,378 spots in less than a calendar year.
What a calendar year it was for Ortiz. It began with a third-place finish in his debut on the Web.com Tour in Colombia. A month later, the breakthrough came for Ortiz as he won the Panama Claro Championship. The win all but punched the ticket to the PGA Tour for Ortiz, but he didn’t stop there. Three weeks later, Ortiz, a native Mexican, won El Bosque Mexico Championship in front of throngs of family and friends.
Two months into his first season, Ortiz was the hottest player on the Web.com circuit. His two wins earned him a shot at the big leagues and a spot at Jack’s tournament, The Memorial, in late May. Ortiz made the most of it, making the cut in his first PGA Tour event.
Ortiz had everything going for him. His game was cooking, his wallet was getting fat, but he also became vulnerable to something else. The grind. The summer saw Ortiz sputter as he missed four cuts and failed to notch a top-25 in the other three Web.com events. Was Ortiz running out of gas?
The answer was no. After a two-week break, Ortiz captured his third title of the season by pulling away from the field to win in Portland. The win cemented Ortiz as one of only three players from the Web.com Tour to earn fully-exempt status for the 2014-15 PGA season.
Translation? Ortiz can play whenever and wherever he wants on the PGA Tour this season.
But that’s not all he wants.
“My expectation is to maintain my tour card for next season, and my major goal is to finish top-50 in the world rankings,” he said. “Heading into this week’s tournament, I'm trying to keep it simple like I did at the beginning of the season in the Web.com Tour. Don’t put too many expectations on myself. I’m just trying to make the cut this week and then try to play the best that I can, like I did earlier this year.”
In addition Ortiz was named the Web.com Tour’s Player of the Year for 2014, winning $515,403 for the year, the fourth highest total in tour history.
Ortiz is the first North Texas golfer to have fully exempt status on the PGA Tour since Joel Edwards decades ago, and Ortiz’s meteoric climb from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour took less than six months.
The calm, cool demeanor that Ortiz displayed that roller coaster of a night in Alabama back in 2011 is the same demeanor that he used to achieve a dream that begins Thursday morning in California.