Tiger Woods. Phil Mickelson. Eric Mina.
Is there a name there that doesn't belong? Actually, there's not.
Mina, Cal's junior golfer, accomplished something both Woods and Mickelson also did — winning the Pac-10 individual championship. Mina took home the conference title last month in Tempe, Ariz. He and his teammates are in San Diego this weekend competing in an NCAA regional.
Mina became just the second Cal golfer in the 51-year history of the program to win the Pac-10 individual title. Woods won it with Stanford in 1996, and Mickelson captured the crown at Arizona State in 1990.
"Just hearing the names that have won previously and what they are doing now on the professional circuit means a lot to me," Mina said. "All the guys who have won before and now are successful on the PGA Tour gives me a lot of hope for the future."
The grandson of migrant farm workers, Mina took up golf on a public course in Fremont. His father, Erwin, helped out on the farms and attended elementary school with Cesar Chavez's sons. Erwin was friends with Chavez's younger son, Anthony.
Erwin attended San Jose State and went on to a successful software career in the Silicon Valley. He and his wife, Corie, were able to provide Eric with a more comfortable upbringing than they experienced.
Eric eventually moved on to the country club circuit but said he never has forgotten the more humble background of his family.
"My dad started
When Eric was about 8, he started tagging along to his dad's golf lessons. One day, the golf pro gave Eric an old 7-iron, which Eric didn't let out of his possession the rest of the day. Erwin had to pry it out of his hands before his son went to bed that night.
Eric started playing with his father and soon entered a junior tournament at Green Valley Country Club in Fairfield. Erwin said he didn't realize it was a premier tournament featuring the top juniors around Northern California. Using just four clubs, Eric finished in fourth place.
"I asked him if he had a good time. He said, 'I like the food and root beer,' " Erwin said. "Eventually we got him a few more clubs. He started dominating the junior tournaments in the area. We eventually took him to national tournaments where he competed with kids who were really good."
Eric said golf originally was simply a way for him to spend time with his father. But Eric, who is Filipino, said he was inspired by Woods' ability to crack the minority barrier and ascend to the top of the sport.
"If it weren't for Tiger, I wouldn't be here," Mina said. "He was the first non-White player to come out and play on a tour where there really were no minorities. "He took the world by storm and brought on a wave of junior minority golfers who wanted to be just like him. I was definitely part of that group."
Charlie Wi, now also on the tour, is Cal's other Pac-10 champion, winning in 1995.
Mina, who took up golf on a public course in Fremont, has his sights on the tour someday, but he has more immediate matters to handle. The San Diego regional begins this morning and runs through Saturday, with the top five teams advancing to the NCAA championship in Tennessee.
"Expectations continue to rise. Eric has had a sensational year," Cal coach Steve Desimone said. "When you play at that level, it tells you he's one of the best players in the country. I expect him to continue what he's doing. It wouldn't surprise me to see him in the hunt again."