Felipe Alvarez and Coach Jimmy Stobs at tree-lined Miami Shores.

Diamond In The Rough Felipe Alvarez and his teammates are focused on bringing another national title to Barry.

Golf is a game that played over the years provides many ups and downs.

Barry University’s Felipe Alvarez, age 22 and from Bogotá, Colombia, knows that all too well.

Right now, Alvarez is definitely on the upside.

That said, in his early days of golf, there was a definite downside.

Alvarez doesn’t remember exactly how old he was when his biggest golfing mistake was made, but he does know,

“I was young and not very careful.

“I had a friend and we were fooling around on the course,” Alvarez sheepishly remembered. “I was in the cart and he was standing in front of the cart with his hands outstretched.” Unfortunately, Alvarez somehow moved the cart forward and ended up running over his friend.

“He was under the cart and they lifted it off him and he went to the hospital,” Alvarez said. “Turned out he was OK. And, thankfully, to this day he’s still my friend.”

That is pretty generous forgiveness.

Needless to say, parents of both young boys were angry. And the golf course management was, to put it as a major understatement, not too happy.

Result: The two young boys were banned from stepping on the course again.

Also, after that cart event there was some upcoming karma waiting for Alvarez. He was playing golf with his sister, who was a pretty good golfer. She hit a rocket shot that you might say, in polite terms, smacked Alvarez in “no man’s land.”

“Yes, just left of a very sensitive spot,” Alvarez said with a laugh. “It left one big, nice bruise.”

OK, enough about youthful mishaps. Admit it, we’ve all done something in our younger days that we look back on in disbelief.

Now, to the present day and upside for Alvarez.

With the passage of time and the wisdom that comes with that time, Alvarez has learned his lesson — literally.

Felipe Alvarez and Coach Jimmy Stobs at tree-lined Miami Shores.
Felipe Alvarez and Coach Jimmy Stobs at tree-lined Miami Shores.

A business major, Alvarez has been named a Division II All-America Scholar-Athlete. That gives him some impressive numbers just in the order he likes them – low on the golf course and high in the classroom.

How did a player who participated in the junior leagues of Colombia find his way to Miami and Barry University?

Using the modern-era method: Virtually.

Barry Coach Jimmy Stobs did his recruiting of Alvarez, who is now in his senior year, pretty much by watching film clips, studying statistics and making phone calls.

The reality of the situation is that much of the recruiting by a Division II school in almost all sports does not allow scouting trips to here, there and everywhere. The reason: It costs money.

Alvarez actually had little inclination to leave Colombia, saying, “I love Colombia and had a really nice childhood there.” In fact, Alvarez’s college career started by staying in Colombia for his freshman year before the journey to Miami.

As for Alvarez getting on a plane and coming to Barry, three adults played a major role: his dad, his mom and Barry Coach Jimmy Stobs.

First off the tee: Here comes Dad, who watched his son play various sports as a youngster and repeatedly told him, “You either play a sport all-out or you just study it.” Now, as golf has become an encompassing part of Alvarez’s life, he says he and his Dad “laugh” about those prophetic words of wisdom.

Second off the tee: Here comes Mom, who watched Alvarez’s main sports interest in Colombia turn from soccer (he was a goalkeeper) to golf. Being a member of the Colombian National Amateur Golf Team and winning the South American Copa Andes Cup championship further convinced Alvarez and all family members golf was a better sports choice and that meant coming to the United States. Supplying the tears when he departed was Mom. “My Mom cried quite a bit,” Alvarez said. “But both parents supported everything I did in making the decision to come to the U.S. and Barry.”

Third off the tee: Here comes Stobs, the Barry coach and the beneficiary of Alvarez’s final decision to become a Buccaneer. Stobs saw Alvarez play a time or two during junior tournaments in the United States.

“I knew he was a good junior player, a diamond in the rough,” Stobs said. “However, the most difficult thing about recruiting a player without seeing him in person is judging the personality. Personality and character are tough to determine on film.”

Barry Coach Jimmy Stobs did his recruiting of Alvarez, who is now in his senior year, pretty much by watching film clips, studying statistics and making phone calls.

When all was said and done, Alvarez has had no regrets. Well, maybe there was some early “doubt” when he attended his first team meeting with Stobs doing most of the talking.

“I didn’t understand one word coach said during that entire meeting,” said Alvarez, who speaks fluent English now. Like most young and college-age golfers, Alvarez would eventually like to take a shot at playing professional golf. However, he puts conditions on that effort. “I would give myself a time limit,” he said. “I don’t want to be 28 years old and still be struggling on the mini-tour. That would be time for my business degree to come into play.”

If Alvarez is successful and does make the PGA Tour, his business degree could still come in handy – to count his money-winnings and figuring out how to invest the cash. Two-way success personified.

However, right now, there is something else more important to Alvarez and Barry University.

The Buccaneers are teeing off the season by playing strongly and, even more importantly, they are playing accurately. They have won three of the four tournaments they have entered.

Alvarez, a sturdy and muscular 6-3 and 190 pounds, has been helpful in those victories with nearly every drive consistently carrying more than 300 yards. That’s slightly farther than is shown on a video Alvarez has kept tucked away for many, many years. It shows him hitting a shot as a 5-year-old. Good for 30 yards and not 300.

The Barry men are a longtime national Division II golf power and this season is shaping up just fine for the accolades to continue for the team and Coach Stobs. The Bucs are off and running – actually, make that winning – and they are pleasantly residing in the Division II standings as the No. 1 team in the nation.

That’s now, but it’s where the Bucs are at the end of the season that counts.

In his 20 years as Barry’s coach, Stobs has won three national titles (2007, 2013 and 2014).

As far as Stobs is concerned, going seven years without a national championship is far too long.

Alvarez desperately wants to give his coach a helping hand.

“I really like him,” Alvarez said of Stobs. “Myself and the team want to get him a national championship. We know he really wants it. It would mean a lot to him … and to us.”

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