Esteve Proud to Represent Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico October 5, 2017 | Atlanta, Ga. By Stuart Hall

Jeronimo Esteve will be thinking of family and friends back in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico as he competes in this week's U.S. Mid-Amateur. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Mid-Amateur Home

As a child growing up in Miami, curious peers, as they are wont to do, prodded Jeronimo Esteve about his heritage.

The response was consistent. His father, Jeronimo Esteve III, was from Cuba and mother, Yazmin, was from Puerto Rico. He was born in San Juan. The family eventually migrated to Miami.

“Most of the kids in Miami were from Cuba or of Cuban descent,” Esteve said, “so when I said my father was Cuba, they would immediately say ‘Oh, well, then that makes you Cuban.’ I would say ‘No, man, I am from Puerto Rico.’ I took pride in being from there.”

The regard for the United States territory still swells in Esteve, 36, who currently lives in Windermere, Fla. Twice Esteve has represented Puerto Rico in the World Amateur Team Championships. He has also competed in all three Latin America Amateur Championships; his best finish is a tie for 20th earlier this year in Panama.

“It’s just the pride of being part of someplace special,” Esteve said. “It’s the beaches, the jungles, the food and really just the people. I’ve just always associated myself as being Puerto Rican and being proud of that.

“Any time you get to wear your country’s colors in competition or play for something other than for yourself, there really is no greater feeling.”

At this week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, being contested at the Capital City Club and stroke play co-host Atlanta National Golf Club, Esteve, in his eighth attempt, seeks to become the first Puerto Rican to win a USGA championship.

He will do so with plenty of perspective.

For starters, Esteve, married and the father of two kids, is a cancer survivor. Each day is considered a win.

Esteve also continues to think about family members and his fellow citizens who suffered through a pair of devastating hurricanes last month. First Hurricane Irma sideswiped the island’s northeastern edge, followed by Hurricane Maria’s direct punch, the latter of which left Puerto Rico without power and communication.

“My mother-in-law broke two of her fingers trying to hold the garage door closed because it was blowing in,” Esteve said. “If the door blew in, then air was going to get through the house and maybe something else would blow out. The skylight in their roof did blow out, so they basically had a waterfall of water coming into their home.

“They were sitting kind of hopeless as their house is getting destroyed. They said it was the worst experience they have ever been through, bar none, and that is to a T what everyone I’ve talked to has said.”

Esteve said that while he was playing in the prestigious Crump Cup at Pine Valley Golf Club two weeks ago, his wife and sister coordinated relief efforts through the family’s Headquarter Automotive Group locations in the Orlando and Miami areas. Supplies were then shipped to Puerto Rico.

“Think about it,” he said. “You live there. Each morning you leave in the morning to go and see how you can help your friends on the island. Or maybe even the office. But you leave your wife and kids. But there’s a fuel scarcity, so you can’t really get in the car and waste gas.

“Then there is no food in the fridge. It doesn’t work because there is no power. After you leave the house you can’t really stay in touch because communications are down in a lot of places. When you do connect, the cellphone cuts out so you can’t really have a conversation. Then you come home at 7 or 8 or 9 o’clock at night with whatever food you can find. And you do that on a day-to-day basis. It’s brutal.”

In terms of golf, Esteve learned a valuable lesson in April. He played with U.S. Mid-Amateur champions Scott Harvey and Stewart Hagestad at the George L. Coleman Invitational at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla.

What stood out was their commitment to the game.

“You can tell by the quality of their ball striking and short games,” Esteve said. “I play with some tour pros around [Orlando] and I’ve said there is not a big difference in [Harvey’s and Hagestad’s] games and the guys I play with.”

The takeaway?

“To me it was like a double win. I don’t play nearly as much and I can compete with them. But if I want to beat them, then I am going to have to really spend time on my game. That opened my eyes,” he said. “It led me to see what was really important. Golf is really important, but seeing my kids play ball or spending time with the family is just as important. But I like to compete. Maybe I won’t make a Walker Cup team, but I can still give them hell for a week.”

That would make Puerto Ricans proud.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.



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