Maria Torres, first Pro from Puerto Rico

Torres Does it the Hard Way, but Triumphs

We are accustomed to seeing natural disasters wreak havoc all around the world with horrified amazement, but for the past 12 months, it feels as though the western hemisphere is getting a little more punishment than usual. From fires and floods to hurricanes, disease, and earthquakes,  every nation suffers its share of the risks involved with living on this little planet. However, it is not often that we see an entire national community threatened with life-imperiling forces all at once. Puerto Rico has been all but destroyed by the vicious hurricane that took aim at the entire island a short time ago. How long it will take to put the island together again is anyone’s guess, and much of it depends upon many people and their response to the tragedy. As so often happens in these dire times, a feel-good moment comes out of the gloom, and is a welcome guest among hard realities. Puerto Rico’s feel-good moment came when native daughter Maria Torres became the first female professional golfer became the first of her country to win a spot on the LPGA Tour.

Torres has been a successful collegiate golfer for the Florida Gators, and in 2015 was named SEC Golfer of the Year. Her parents live in Trujillo, and the whole family was present there when the hurricane hit. As in most cases, the power went, including communication with the outside world, along with various shortages. Torres was practicing for the second phase of Qualifying School during this period, and was forced to take her game to the local park, as the golf course was all but destroyed. Her parents knew that in order to succeed, she had to leave. The only problem was that she had to submit payment to the LPGA online to play the next round of Q-School. Finally, she found a restaurant with a signal, and was able to send all the necessaries in time to be accepted. Finding a way off the island, she returned to Florida and played the five rounds required for this round of competition. For her five rounds at Daytona Beach, she went 73, 71, 70, 70, 74.

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In the LPGA format of Q School, the top twenty finishers earn a tour card with full honors. Numbers 21 to 45 receive conditional cards that afford certain opportunities for advancement, but not the whole nine yards. 21 to 45 are professional golfers hanging on by their fingertips. Torres came in with a score that tied two others vying for the number 20 spot. If only that 5-putt would not have occurred on that day of all days. But, she weathered the storm and won the playoff. It sounds, at least by Torres’ account, that the phone call home was a lot of fun. Her mother was first on the line, and Maria knew that her father’s ear was right next to the receiver as well. She playfully hyped the suspense, speaking grimly of the three-way playoff before announcing her victory, which caused both parents to scream. The rest is history. Maria Torres now represents her island country as the first female professional. That’s got to be a feeling one can only truly know by experiencing it.
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As for the feel-good moment, I read the news of Torres victory right next to an update on the casualties of the tragedy in Puerto Rico. The initial assessment of the dead is around 60, but a reasonable estimate will likely take that number well over a thousand. As the island of U.S. citizens works to rebuild, and waits for what help they can find from the mainland. they will have at least one community-wide event and one of their own to cheer for with pride. In light of all the trouble and despair, Maria Torres has become a very important person.

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