Sets Catalina GC record, gets first Ace along way
Local golfer Gabe Hernandez recently set a new course record for nine holes on the Catalina Island Golf Course. Hernandez carded a seven-under par 25 to set the new course record.
It was a special accomplishment for Hernandez, who grew up on Catalina and learned to play golf on the famed course.
For Hernandez, it wasn’t just a fun round of golf, but training for a return to the road where he is working towards building a professional golf career. He’s qualified for the Asian Tour and is also playing on the APGA (Advocates Professional Golf Association) Tour, which hosts tournaments to help amateurs develop their game, as well as prize money for young pros.
Hernandez is working to win enough to get a chance to earn a PGA Tour card. Prize money earned can help pay expenses along the way. Hernandez said the tours are a grind and he hasn’t been able to play a full schedule yet, but he’s still focused on the dream and is happy to still have opportunities to put in the work.
“For the most part, I enjoy it,” Hernandez said.
He was home for a few weeks, practicing for an upcoming tournament in Austin, Texas, when he posted his record round on Catalina. He had been close, but with a nine-hole course, there is little room for error. He was four under par, with birdies on 1, 3, 5, and 7, which was good enough to get him within reach.
However, he would need a two-under-par Eagle on the 8th hole. The shortest of the par four holes, it was well within his range off the tee. His tee shot was on the green, but was about 30 feet from the hole, he said. But when he made contact on the putt, he knew quickly that it was good.
“About halfway there, I knew it was going in,” Hernandez said.
He still needed a birdie on the final hole, but that was a relatively easy feat for Hernandez. He does admit that standing on the tee box on the ninth hole, he felt a little nervous. His tee shot landed within about 10 feet of the hole and he sank the putt for the record, besting the record held by the late Mike Reyes.
The next day, Hernandez added the cherry on his sundae, when his tee shot on the 7th found the cup for his first hole-in-one. Despite all his talents on the course, he had not had an Ace, though he had been close many times.
“That just kind of sealed the whole week for me,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez only started playing golf because his father Larry began working at the course when he was young. Larry reportedly became a pretty good golfer in his own right. Gabe started hitting golf balls and soon joined a middle school program that the course used to offer.
When he got to high school, he joined the golf team and played for coach Stephen Hall. Gabe quickly became a contributing player. Hall said as a freshman, Gabe was part of the team that won the Knabbe Cup in Long Beach. The Lancers beat a field of much-bigger schools to win the challenging event.
Hall said that Hernandez was a gifted athlete, who also played basketball for him at Avalon High. While he had plenty of athletic abilities, Hall said one of the things that set him apart from others was his mental focus. That comes in handy in golf, where good players don’t let one mistake balloon into a bad round.
“To keep calm like that, that’s half of it in golf,” Hall said.
After high school, Hernandez played one year at Hawaii Pacific University, before transferring to Prairie View A&M in Texas to finish out his college career. He returns home when he can and this recent trip was certainly rewarding with his record and Ace. He plans to continue to pursue his golf dreams and will head out again soon to try his game on the circuits.
“I’m definitely ready to get out there, but it’s been nice to be home,” Hernandez said.
Follow Gabe on Instagram at @gabrielhernandezgolf.