After he graduated from UCLA, Erik Flores was struggling to jump start his professional golfing career, but those struggles will have to go on the back burner Thursday when he tees up at his first PGA Tour event.
The 2005 Nevada Union graduate had been a star on the links throughout his high school years for Hank Davidson and was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in his first year on the college team.
"It's been a life-long thing with him," said Davidson. "Since he was in the third grade, he was out with the team. It's always been his goal."
Despite the hard work and the long days and nights on the course, he was unable to make the Nationwide Tour, a feeder league to the PGA Tour, in his first go around right out of college.
He took a year off. He needed time to be sure that this was what he wanted to do with his life, said his father, Ricardo Flores.
But he came back to it, and after a Monday qualifying event at Bayonet Golf Course, he earned a spot at the Frys.com Open in Silicon Valley.
"Qualifying for this is a huge step for him and his confidence," said Ricardo Flores. "It's tough out there. This is the break he's been looking for."
When Flores steps up to the tee on Thursday, he will be looking down a familiar fairway at CordeValle Golf Course in San Martin, Calif.
The UCLA golf team uses the course as a practice facility when it plays in Northern California, and Flores' father estimates that he has played at least 25 rounds through the course.
That familiarity may come in handy as he tries to compete with some of the golf world's top players, including last year's champion Rocco Mediate and 14-time major champion Tiger Woods.
Ricardo Flores is not concerned about his son beating the former world's No. 1 player.
"It doesn't matter much if he beats Tiger and Tiger doesn't make the cut," he said. "I wouldn't be totally surprised if [Erik] is in the running. But the first goal is to make the cut."
Flores' threesome will tee off on the 10th hole at 12:50 p.m. on Thursday at CordeValle Golf Course.
To contact Sports Writer Anthony Barstow, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4232.