Manuel Martinez - A surprise from Spain for Kent City golf team.

Kent City golf coach Ross Willick and his team received a surprise from Spain this season – an exchange student from La Coruna in the North West part of Spain who just so happened to be a very good golfer. His full name is Manuel Martinez Ubago Alvarez Sotomayor, but around Kent City he skips the last four and goes by Manuel Martinez.
Willick is also a basketball coach and that is how he initially met Manuel. Martinez is much happier playing soccer or rugby, but decided to broaden his horizons while in the US and try out for the basketball team even though he had no experience playing the sport with a team. He related that he was “looking to have fun” and learn more about b-ball. He made the jv team and actually was able to play for short periods of time in a few games. It was while they were waiting for the bus to take them to an away game that Martinez mentioned to coach Willick that he knew how to golf.
Willick asked him to explain his pre-shot routine and to take a practice swing sans a club in the hallway at school. What the coach heard and saw convinced him that he needed to have Manuel on the golf team. Things have worked out well for Martinez and the Eagles.
“He has been a great surprise for the team, he made us even more competitive than we were,” Willick said. “Manuel is a tough competitor, but he is also a good sport who is respectful of others.”
Martinez did very well this season. His 44 average kept him golfing in one of the top slots for the Eagles. It is noteworthy that he did not bring his own clubs with him, but borrowed a set from the coach to get through the season. About the only difficulty he had was to occasionally chose the wrong club when reading the distance signs at the tee because he forgot to think in yards instead of meters. But that was not much of a hindrance because Martinez was named All Conference First Team and shot well enough at the District Tournament, with an 84, to qualify for Regionals. (The Eagles missed qualifying as a team by just one stroke for the second time in a row.) The weather on The Meadows course at GVSU on the day of the Regional tournament was not very much like what he would expect in Spain in the spring. It was cold with high winds that played havoc with Martinez and his 86 was not good enough to make State.
Outside of the cold, it never gets lower than 30 in La Coruna, Martinez has really enjoyed his visit to Michigan. He came at the insistence of his mother who wanted him to perfect his English. Manuel reported that the people he has met have generally been very friendly. He emphasized that the teachers at Kent City were much more friendly and warm than teachers in Spain.
Manuel told us that he started golfing at seven. His game has benefitted from the coaching of Jose Andonio Salgado; who is quite well known as a golfer and designer of courses in Spain. Truth be told, Martinez likes soccer and rugby more than golf, but he does like how relaxing golf is for him. When he returns home, he has a couple more years of high school in front of him before heading to college to study engineering or architecture.
One of the things Manuel enjoys the most about his visit has been the availability of fast food here. When asked for his favorite, he gave a quick credit to McDonalds, but assured us his tastes were broad.
“I am always hungry – all the time”, the sixteen year old related. “I eat at all of them.”
Manuel has been staying with Bob and Mindy Abbott and their four daughters; Grace, Ashley, Miranda, and Chelsea. The Abbotts have shared their home with two exchange students prior to Manuel, one from Slovakia and one from South Korea. The program has impressed them so much that not only are they already signed up for the fourth, a student from Germany, but Mindy became an area representative for the International Student Exchange – the company that facilitates the visits. Mindy Abbott labeled her family as “lifers” when it comes to involvement with exchange students.
“It is a great cultural experience for the kids. They really bond and it becomes an extended family,” Mindy told us. “We treat them like a guest for the first three or four weeks, but they become a member of the family and are expected to do chores and behave like everyone else.”
The Abbotts have some acreage behind the house where they hit golf balls. Mindy related that she can hit them about 200 yards or so, but that Manuel drives them so far they land “way out in the swamp”. Coach Willick confirmed that story because he said that one of the strongest parts of Martinez’s game is the way he can get “good distance” when he hits.
In view of how well things have gone for the Eagles this season with help from Manuel Martinez Ubago Alvarez Sotomayor, we wonder if the coach is going to put some pressure on the Abbotts to secure good golfers in the future.
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