Everyday Champion - Diego Velasquez
April 20, 2010
Corvallis is a far different place culturally and physically to Bogota, Colombia, but to Diego Velasquez it sure doesn't feel like it. The senior golfer has adopted a second home here in the Willamette Valley, and his comfort has translated into a fierce golf game. Velasquez has been ranked in the top five nationally for nearly his entire senior year, and at the Pac-10 Championships next week, he will hope to make a big statement. His 70.59 scoring average is on pace to break the school record by a full stroke (71.59, James Allenby (06-07)). Despite the distance from home, and the demanding golf schedule, he has managed to keep up with his academics, and will be completing the New Media Communications program in 2010.
Q: Currently you're ranked nationally in the top-five; do you feel a lot of pressure to keep your scores down, or to lead the team?
'Being ranked in the top-5 in the country I don't feel that much pressure actually. It feels good, because it shows that my hard work has paid off. To be the leader of the team gives me more pressure, and more motivation to play better each tournament, and to play for the team rather than myself.'
Q: With the great senior year you've had, are looking to continue you're golf career?
'I am looking to continue my golf career. It will start in January of 2011. I still have to do some summer school, and come back in the fall to finish up some classes, but my plan is to carry on with this particular set of skills I have. Basically that is the reason I played college golf, to make it to the next level.'
Q: If golf doesn't work out, how do you plan on using your New Media Communications knowledge?
'If golf doesn't work out, which hopefully it will, I can use my new media communication's major for anything really. I will have to look into that, but right now what I have in my head is just golf.'
Q: What has your experience of being an international student been like at Oregon State?
'Coming from another country, and being an international student in general feels pretty good, because you feel like you are adding on to this American culture. Being in college with a bunch of other international students, and being able to participate in a bunch of international programs, it feels pretty good. In many ways I'm representing where I'm from, and I'm bringing my culture to this place.'
Q: Why did you choose Oregon State?
'Basically it was more my parents choosing Oregon State for me more than it was me choosing Oregon State myself. My parents liked the family atmosphere Coach Watts and the team had here. Being so far from home they knew, and Coach guaranteed me, that I was going to be in a family atmosphere and that's what my parent's liked the most.'
Q: Of all the schools in the United States, what led you to Oregon State?
'I discovered Oregon State from a former golfer here, his name is Eric Fiskum, he went down to Colombia to play a golf tournament representing the Oregon Golf Association and I happened to get paired with him. I played 18 holes with him, and we just talked about life and I told him that I wanted to play college golf. He emailed Coach Watts right after the round and told him, `Hey, you should really take a look at this guy.' That's how it all got started.'
Q: What were your expectations when you committed to OSU, and how accurate were they?
'My expectations coming to Oregon State weren't much, really. I just thought it was a great opportunity in my life to improve my golf game and get an education. To make it as far as I have was something that I really never expected.'
Q: Has it been hard for you being so far from home?
'It hasn't really been that hard being so far from home, because I'm doing what I love here. I'm keeping busy day in and day out. I don't necessarily miss home, except for the food maybe. The main difference is the food. The typical home cooked meal from my mom and family back home, but here I live on my own. I have to get up from the couch and cook me something. Otherwise I'm too lazy and I end up getting fast food, which I hate.'
Q: How do you balance being a student and an athlete?
'Balancing being a student and an athlete is pretty tough, especially being a golfer. I think we're the sport that travels the most and we're the sport that misses the most classes. It is pretty tough, because you have to complete school in order to play golf. Just taking on the challenge is what being a student-athlete is all about. You have to take care of academics if you want to play golf. I always take my books on the road. Coach has sometimes proctored exams for me. Keeping up with the reading is very important, not necessarily work book stuff, or homework stuff, but keeping up with the reading so you know what's going on in class.'
Q: What has it been like playing for Coach Watts?
'Playing for him has been truly great. More than a coach he's been like a father to me over the years, and I thank him for that. As far as my golf game goes, he doesn't teach me about my mechanics, because I've got a swing coach back home. He's taught me about life, and course management, and it's really helpful. We've also added a sports psychologist, which I think has improved my golf game a lot.'
Q: How has a scholarship from the Beaver Athletic Student Fund helped you?
'A scholarship from the BASF has helped me a lot. Basically I had the opportunity to come from a far, far away country to a great university, play for an elite golf team and be a part of the Pac-10 conference. One of the big differences between the colleges here and the colleges in Colombia is that in Colombia you go to college to study, you don't have the opportunity to play a sport and balance it with school. Here in the United States, that's what college is all about. You get a scholarship, an education, but you balance it with a sport. I just feel that this country has the opportunities that I need for my life.'
Q: Coming from Colombia, had you ever been to Oregon?
'Well I told Coach Watts that I was coming to the United States to check out five schools, and he had me come to OSU, nothing official. When I came, it was pretty great, it just happened to be 80 degrees, just sunny clear blue skies. Campus looked amazing. It was pretty cool. There is a big difference between my hometown and Corvallis, such a little town, a college town. It was a big culture change for me. I like it; I wanted to get away from home in order to focus on what I wanted to do. I'm in the right place. The only shock for me was the difference from my recruiting trip to the fairly constant rain, but I'm getting used to it, and I'm falling in love with it.'