Mexican Tour players Abe Ancer and Roberto Díaz on growing up and growing the game for others

October 20, 2018

As the only two Mexican players currently on the PGA Tour, Abraham Ancer, 27, and Roberto Díaz, 31, tee it up with a great sense of national pride — and with an eye toward the game’s future south of the border.

Mexico hasn’t produced a ton of professional golfers. What inspired you guys to take up the game?

ROBERTO DÍAZ: I picked it up when I was, like, five. My uncle took me to play. I really liked it. I started competing when I was young. When I was 14, I decided to come study [in the U.S.] in college, so I took it a bit more serious.

In Mexico, your family belonged to a golf club. What was your experience like there?

DÍAZ: It was a nine-hole course. Not a lot of money around it. Greens rolled at about five or six every day. Nobody played, so we could go out and play
it in an hour and 30 minutes.

How about you, Abe? You were born in Texas, moved to Mexico, and then, growing up, moved back to Texas. What turned you on to golf?

ABRAHAM ANCER: My dad took me to the golf course when I was in diapers. Really. I grew up at the golf club there, in Reynosa [Mexico]. And that’s what inspired me. I just fell in love with the game pretty much around [age] three. My first tournament, I think, I was six years old, playing in a little junior tour they called “Zona Norte.”

It’s tough enough to get to the PGA Tour if you have everything at your disposal: equipment, financial support, top courses. How difficult has it been for you to get to this point?

DÍAZ: For me personally, it was tough, because I had to leave home when I was 17 to come to the U.S. Then I got a scholarship into a Division II school [University of South Carolina-Aiken], and it was one of the greatest experiences in my life. The golf course I played in college was awesome. Better balls. Better equipment. More doors were opening. When I got to the U.S., I didn’t really know if I was a regular flex, stiff flex, extra stiff. I played with whatever I had in my hands.

mexican pga tour players
Abe Ancer (left) and Roberto Diaz (right) were joined by multiple Mexican-born players graduating from the Tour for the 2018-19 season.

Abe, with so few Mexican players on Tour, do you feel added pressure to represent your country?

ANCER: I think Mexican golf is growing quickly. We’ve got a lot of players on the Tour who are playing really good golf. I just try to play my best and put the name of Mexico as high up as I can. We want to play our best to bring more Mexican golfers out here.

What can be done to grow the game in Mexico?

ANCER: It will be a slow process, but it’s getting there. There’s not really any public golf courses in Mexico. They’re all private. Having the WGC event in Mexico, that’s huge. Having the tournament in Mayakoba. They started with The First Tee last year, so that’s huge—getting kids involved and knowing what the game is about.

Some Tour players are big into showing off what college they went to. When it comes to Mexico, do you do anything to show where you’re from?

ANCER: My driver headcover has a pretty big Mexican flag, which was a gift from the junior kids that watched the WGC event. I carry it with pride. To play Tour events, you guys travel all over the U.S.

Which America city has the best Mexican food?

DÍAZ: San Antonio is very close to Mexico, so it’s tough to beat. It’s [authentic] Mexican, not a lot of Tex-Mex. If you go to places like California—or even South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida—they do a lot of Tex-Mex. A lot of cheese on their dishes. You don’t see that a lot in Mexico.

Do you guys get a good laugh out of what people here think of as “real” Mexican food?

ANCER: When I was at [the University of] Oklahoma, they had a Mexican restaurant there that everybody loved. I went there, and they had
a lot of things that I was like, “What is this?” Sopapillas? I’ve never seen it in Mexico in my life.

DÍAZ: Or chimichangas.

ANCER: Yes! I was like, “What is a chimichanga?”

The World Cup wrapped up recently. I’m going to name a couple of Mexican soccer stars. Give me their PGA Tour equivalent, in terms of what they mean to the game, their talent, etc. Let’s start with Chicharito.

DÍAZ: I’ll say Jordan Spieth. Chicharito went overseas young, had a lot of success early. He’s been the national team golden boy since 2006.

Hirving Lozano.

ANCER: Man. He was the guy who scored the goal against Germany, so it was huge. I guess, right now, it would be Brooks Koepka. Winning back-to-back U.S. Opens and a PGA. The guy everybody’s talking about.

Hugo Sanchez.

DÍAZ: I think that would be a guy like Davis Love III. Sanchez is in his 50s. He was top scorer in Spain. Davis was, I think, top five in the world. Hugo was one of the best forwards in the game from ’89 to ’94. And Davis won his major in 1997. Davis was the captain for the Ryder Cup and Hugo was the coach for the Mexican national team.

Perfect! Last one. Rafael Marquez.

ANCER: Legend. This year was his fifth World Cup, which is pretty much unheard of. That’s 20 years of playing with a national team. I’ll have to compare that to Phil Mickelson. He’s been playing so good for a long time. He’s always in the mix. I mean, if Phil is talking to a team, they’re listening.