I had the opportunity to play a round of golf with two Champions Tour professionals in two separate pro-am events at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic last week. They were a joy to meet, and both truly enjoy the game of golf.
Esteban Toledo and Mike Goodes have been given second chances in professional golf, and both are excited for the opportunity.
Toledo grew up as the youngest of 11 children in Mexicali, Mexico. The family home had dirt floors and no plumbing. He learned the game of golf like so many before him by caddying at a nearby golf course and scrounged for golf balls from a pond.
He became a boxer and amassed a 16-1 record over four years. Appendicitis ended his boxing career, and he turned to golf.
In nine years on the PGA Tour, Toledo never hoisted a trophy, but he earned over $5 million. He did have one win on the Web.com Tour (Nationwide Tour) at the 2005 Lake Erie Charity Classic.
He turned 50 years old in September 2012 and became a rookie on the 2013 Champions Tour. Wins at the Insperity Championship in May and at the Montreal Championship in September earned him $1.2 million for the year, and he finished No. 13 in the Charles Schwab Cup rankings.
As a youngster, Mike Goodes had a successful amateur career in North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina. Extracurricular activities became more important than hitting the range or practice green. Golf was not a priority.
He didn’t become eligible for the Champions Tour until December 2006 and decided to turn professional the next year. He is one of just a few players who have found success on the Champions Tour without first competing on the PGA Tour. He finished fifth at the 2007 Champions Tour Q-School and has been a fixture on tour since.
Goodes has entered 154 events on the Champions Tour and has one win. He has 25 top-10 finishes and has earned nearly $3.8 million. He finished No. 25 on the 2013 Champions Tour money list, earning $678,000.
Making it to the professional ranks at a later age in life has given Goodes a stronger appreciation for the game, and he is enjoying every day on the Champions Tour.
In an effort to give back, Toledo has established a foundation that provides assistance to children in his hometown. The Esteban Toledo Family Foundation currently provides the basic necessities of food, clothing, housing and education to 40 children in Mexicali, Mexico. He is happy with the results thus far, but he is looking to expand those numbers.
Both Toledo and Goodes are examples of the dedication and hard work necessary to make it to the top of professional golf.
Both understand the love the average amateur golfer has for the game and have not forgotten where they came from to reach their dream of playing on one of golf’s biggest stages.
I have had the opportunity to meet some of the world’s best people through my golf travels. Esteban Toledo and Mike Goodes are both at the top of the list.