Feature: Pete Fernandez

Standing at approximately 5’10 with a physique honed through long hours at the gym, Peter Fernandez exudes a combination of charisma and warmth that few others can replicate.

A force to be reckoned with on the fairway, Fernandez led UC Irvine’s men’s golf team with four top-10 finishes during the 2012-2013 season. Adding to an already impressive list of achievements throughout his golfing career, he would take home his first collegiate title in the 34th Anteater Invitational at the Mesa Verde Country Club just last week.

“It feels pretty good.” said Fernandez. “Obviously it gets you hungry for another win, to play better and work harder.”

Although he swung his first iron at the tender age of 5, the bulk of Fernandez’s energy and interest as an adolescent were directed towards basketball, with aspirations to one day play in the NBA. Whilst in the 6th grade however, his family relocated to Bakersfield and became members at a local golf club in the process. With the newfound ease-of-access towards the driving range, Fernandez realized the impracticality of continuing with basketball and redirected his focus towards honing his game on the greens of Old Man Par.

Despite possessing a decent skillset, Fernandez constantly harbored a strong desire to improve as a player. Fortunately this sentiment was shared by his father, who devoted hours of his time to researching the game golf in order to better instruct his son. Their combined efforts paid off, as Fernandez “found [his] swing” the summer before entering high school.

Fernandez would go on to become a three-time Bakersfield Californian all-are selection, a three-time CIF regionalist, and a member of four league championship teams in Stockdale High. His most successful season took place during his sophomore year, where he finished second in the CIF state championship.

“That was the year where I was like ‘Woah! I played a lot better than I thought!” said Fernandez.

In addition to earning him honors as Bakersfield Californian Player of the Year, his remarkable showing at the state level allowed golf to become a way to bond with his mother.

“My mom didn’t know much about golf and wasn’t interested. When I started playing better, she started realizing ‘Oh, he’s actually decent!’ and started wanting to learn more about golf,” laughed Fernandez.

With its ideal weather, strong academic and athletic programs, not to mention the surplus top-notch courses in the surrounding area, UC Irvine was the ideal school for Fernandez upon graduating from Bakersfield High.

Playing for UC Irvine’s men’s golf team is by no means an easy feat. At a time when most students are still asleep, the players can be found on the course swinging their 9-irons in preparation for the next tournament three days of the week, while the other two are spent lifting weights.

In spite of the long hours of practice and conditioning that golfers dedicate to their craft, the validity of golf as a sport is a question that many still persist on asking.

“A lot of people don’t think it’s a sport, a lot of people don’t know that there’s a golf team at UCI,” says Fernandez with a chuckle. “It’s always a fun debate when people say it’s not a sport. It’s a different kind of sport, I would say. Obviously it’s not like a contact sport, but there’s so much of a mental side to it, and golf is such a tough game in my opinion. All sports are tough, but I feel like golf is a lot more precise, where there’s little margin for error.”

Considering that a game of golf relies entirely on each player’s individual performance, a more viable topic of discussion would be whether or not golf can be considered a team sport.

“Golf is just one of those sports where it’s really made to be an individual sport. You don’t see team golf anywhere else except for the Ryder Cup and President Cup, which happens every other year, so it’s not very common.” said Fernandez.

However, Fernandez does admit that the inherent fact of playing for a team does influence certain aspects of one’s game. On the course, an individual must keep in mind that the decisions and shots he chooses to make will affect not only himself but his team as well.

“You usually play more conservatively,” said Fernandez. “If there’s a pretty high risk, even though you think you can pull it off sometimes you have to think about the team and just take bogey out of play.”

When given the question if golf has taught him anything about life, Fernandez’s eyes immediately lit up with the fervor of someone who knew all too well of the topic.

“Oh yeah,” answered Fernandez in a tone that seemed to scream, “What hasn’t golf taught me about life?”

“There’s a lot of people that say golf is like life, in the sense that you get good breaks from bad shots, and you get bad breaks from good shots. Golf is like life, in that bad people can play good, good people can play bad, some people work super hard and don’t get there, while some people don’t have to work as hard and they’re very talented. You’re just going to get good breaks and bad breaks, just like life, and it’s mainly how you deal with it that defines who you are. Golf is a gentleman’s game, mainly because you call things on yourself. Just like in life, you got to take responsibilities for your actions and just accept the consequences.

Following graduation, Fernandez has aspirations to turn professional and tour the PGA circuit.

“I’ll give myself a couple of years, if it happens – awesome! If not, I have my degree, and I’m actually thinking about getting my masters in criminology before I turn pro.”

In tune with the lessons that he has learned from golf over the years, it’s clear that no matter what the future has in store for him, Peter Fernandez will turn out just fine.