SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Michael Herrera’s strategy for the Advocates Professional Golf Association event at TPC Scottsdale was simple.
Keep the ball in play. Find the middle of the green. Try to sink a 10-foot putt.
At the 18th hole, Herrera followed the first two steps by firing his tee shot in the short grass and landing his next attempt in the middle of the green. Preparing for his third shot, he read the green shifting right 1 ½ inches and on a downward angle.
With wind in his face, he hit the putt firm. The ball eventually rolled to the hole and fell in, achieving the third step of his strategy with one key difference: his attempt was from 30 feet away.
That successful birdie putt ended up winning him the APGA event.
“It means a lot,” said Herrera, who finished the 36-hole tournament at 4 under. “It’s my first two-day win, so it feels great.”
After finishing Monday’s first round down four strokes to leader Daniel Augustus, Herrera sparked his victory Tuesday by notching four birdies to finish his second round at 3 under. For APGA Tour CEO Ken Bentley, watching Herrera’s win was a rewarding experience.
Before Herrera turned professional in 2019, he was a basketball player at Riverside City College in California. Coach Philip Mathews noticed his golf skill and called Bentley, his best friend and college roommate, and said he believed Herrera could be a good fit on the APGA Tour.
When Bentley later played a round with him, he quickly noticed Herrera’s talent. As a result, he recommended to Mathews that Herrera shift his focus to golf. The coach then encouraged Herrera to switch sports and told him his decision was rooted in “thinking about your future.”
“Mike (will) tell you it’s the best thing that ever happened to him,” Bentley said. “He was disappointed at first because he loved the game, but you could see immediately the raw talent. The guy hits it long. He’s got good hands.”
When Herrera officially joined the APGA Tour, he received a new set of clubs and lessons from golf instructor Dana Dahlquist, who coached players including current DP World Tour member Robert Rock.
Herrera’s first win came in January 2021 at the Crossings at Carlsbad in California. It would take more than year for his next one, but Herrera has enjoyed his golf journey so far. Additionally, he appreciates the APGA’s work to increase diversity in golf.
“It’s huge, the APGA putting minorities out there to succeed and to come out here and play the best they can. (It’s) just all inspiration. Little kids see us play. It’s a big deal for me and I think it’s a big deal for a lot of people to see minorities out there play.”
This week’s tournament at TPC Scottsdale marked the sixth stop of the APGA Tour’s Lexus Cup, a series that will resume on May 6 at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
According to APGA Tour Executive Director Cole Smith, the two-day event represented the successful continuation of the organization’s mission.
“Each event that we play and these guys perform at this level and caliber of play, it just shows you that we’re headed in the right direction,” Smith said. “We’re actually gaining ground on accomplishing what our mission is.”