The Golden Boy

Daniel Ro­drigues

GOLFE - - TEE ONE -

At four or five years old, Daniel da Costa Ro­drigues was al­ready tak­ing his first shots. It was at City Golf of Porto, half a dozen steps from his home, that his pas­sion for golf was born, and grew.

“It was there to try. To see what it was like. And I liked it. So much so that I stayed with it,” re­calls Daniel da Costa Ro­drigues to GOLFE, ex­plain­ing that at the time I was look­ing for a sport to play and found it.

“It’s the ideal sport for me. It has dis­ci­pline, ex­cite­ment, is chal­leng­ing, and very, very re­ward­ing,” sum­ma­rizes Dani, as he is known in na­tional golf, say­ing that the most im­por­tant thing is to have fun with the game. “Of course win­ning is im­por­tant, but you have to have fun,” says the win­ner, in Fe­bru­ary this year, of the 89th In­ter­na­tional Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship of Portugal.

Since then, in a re­mark­able year at all lev­els, Dani, just 16, has scored ma­jor tri­umphs and in­ter­na­tional high­lights. In Portugal, he won the Ab­so­lute Na­tional Cham­pi­onship, be­came na­tional un­der-18 cham­pion and won the Mi­ra­mar Ju­nior Open. Along the way, he made the cut at the Portugal Open (Chal­lenge Tour) and nar­rowly missed the week­end at the Portugal Masters (Euro­pean Tour). Ad­di­tion­ally, he helped Mi­ra­mar win the na­tional cham­pi­onship.

At the in­ter­na­tional leval, Dani also shone. He was third at the Or­lando In­ter­na­tional Am­a­teur for Ju­niors and at the Madrid Abierto Cham­pi­onship, sixth at the Ger­man Boys and ninth at the R&A Boys Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship, be­ing elected the Euro­pean Con­ti­nen­tal Team MVP that beat Bri­tain and Ire­land in The Jac­ques Leglise Tro­phy. The na­tional num­ber 1 closed the year at 77th on the am­a­teur world rank­ing, and wants more. “The goal is to be num­ber 1 in the world and then be num­ber 1 as a pro. The thought has to be this. Al­ways think­ing ahead, higher,” he says, re­call­ing the steps he took lead­ing up to this year.

Af­ter City Golf, which has a Pitch & Putt course which was in­stru­men­tal in the de­vel­op­ment of his short game, Daniel Ro­drigues moved to Mi­ra­mar. “I was 12 years old and I felt I had to go a step fur­ther,” ex­plain­ing the move

to one of the ma­jor na­tional club golf schools. It was there that he met coach Ser­gio Ribeiro, who- “has con­trib­uted a lot to the growth of my game” - and he be­gan to be no­tice in na­tional golf.

The first call to the na­tional team came quickly, and Dani is al­ready a key pres­ence on the Por­tuguese team. “It’s been a very good year. My pres­ence on the Portugal team, win­ning the In­ter­na­tional of Portugal and be­ing the Jac­ques Leglise MVP. It has been go­ing re­ally well,” he ad­mits.

So much so that he is al­ready think­ing of the fu­ture. The stu­dent with an av­er­age of 16 in the Val­adares Sec­ondary School Eco­nom­ics course is pre­par­ing to move to the United States at the end of the school year. Des­ti­na­tion? Texas A&M Univer­sity in Col­lege Sta­tion, Texas. “I have a golf schol­ar­ship and I’m go­ing to study sports eco­nom­ics and man­age­ment,” he says. The idea is to make the most of it by play­ing on the com­pet­i­tive US col­lege cir­cuit. In Portugal, he ex­plains, it is dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile golf with stud­ies. The weekly rou­tine is de­mand­ing. Mon­day is de­voted ex­clu­sively to school, and the rest of the week is di­vided be­tween the high school class­rooms of Dr. Joaquim G. Fer­reira Alves and the Mi­ra­mar course. “In a nor­mal week, I’m in school in the morn­ing, and in the af­ter­noon I’m go­ing to train.” In the United States, it will be eas­ier. “I don’t want to stop study­ing be­fore I fin­ish my higher ed­u­ca­tion”, Dani jus­ti­fies.

Un­til then, Dani, who was the first in his fam­ily to play -now his two younger broth­ers, twins Afonso and Ana, also play - will re­main fo­cused on his goals. “Golf gives me a lot of dis­ci­pline, so I can man­age my time well. Study, train and have fun.”

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