Former Pacer Diaz breaks through for first pro victory

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Kyle Dawson, Aiken Standard, S.C.
·3 min read
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Mar. 22—Roberto Diaz made up his mind a month ago after his last tournament on the Korn Ferry Tour.

He was never going to win.

It hadn't happened in 13 years as a professional golfer. He'd come close, with four career runner-up finishes, but it still hadn't happened in 192 starts across the PGA Tour, the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA Tour Latinoamerica.

And so, as the three-putts piled up and he slipped to a disappointing 14th-place finish at the LECOM Suncoast Classic, he called his putting coach to tell him he'd never be a winner.

He is now.

Diaz held off a hard-charging Peter Uihlein on Sunday at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, giving the 34-year-old USC Aiken Hall of Famer the win he thought would never happen.

"Man, it's a lot of emotions. This is for my mom. She passed away a long time ago," said Diaz, who in December became a new father. "It's amazing. I mean, it's unbelievable. I can't explain how bad I wanted to win, and I did it. It's just — it's a monkey off my back, you know? I wanted this for so long, and now that I have it, it's awesome. Awesome."

Diaz held a two-shot lead through 54 holes and extended it to four shots as he stood on the 12th tee Sunday, and he started getting ahead of himself. He was thinking about all of the things that come with a win — the money, the boost toward a return to the PGA Tour, the feeling of finally breaking through for a victory.

Then his lead began to dwindle.

Uihlein eagled the 12th and birdied the 14th, with Diaz bogeying the 13th in between. Just like that, they were tied for the lead.

Diaz stayed steady down the stretch, giving himself good yardages for his approach shots. Uihlein blinked first, bogeying the 17th to fall a shot behind.

Diaz found the green from a fairway bunker on 18, and Uihlein found trouble off the tee and had to scramble to salvage a par. Minutes later, Diaz tapped in and his wait was finally over.

He said after the round it was good for him that Uihlein started catching up, as it forced him to stop thinking ahead and regain his focus.

Diaz had some nice finishes in 2020 — a tie for seventh in the Bahamas, a runner-up in Panama, two top-10s in San Antonio — but there were strings of missed cuts and other disappointments that had him questioning whether he'd ever break through.

Now he's up from 22nd to ninth on the Korn Ferry Tour's points race, which puts him in a strong position to return to the PGA Tour after previously having status in 2018 and 2019. The win was worth $108,000, putting him at $274,462 over 22 events during this wraparound season.

Following his final putt, he received a video call from PGA Tour pro and close friend Abraham Ancer. Diaz caddied for Ancer at the end of February at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship.

"Abe just told me congrats, good playing," said Diaz. "He knows how hard it's been for me. It was great. He knows how hard I work, how tough it's been for me. He's there with me every day at practice, at the gym, at home, playing, struggling. He's a great friend. It means a lot to me that he was there with me. Dale, his caddie, he FaceTimed with me last night for an hour. It's nice for me to do this for them. It's good."

Diaz was a four-time All-American at USCA from 2005-09, and as a freshman he helped the Pacers win their third consecutive national championship. He collected 20 top-10s and finished atop the leaderboard four times in college, but after more than a decade it seemed like a professional victory could continue to elude him.

Not anymore.