Half Man, Half Amazing
It takes a lot more than 140 characters to understand Olympia’s Andres Gonzales, the Northwest’s most entertaining touring pro.
Story By Brian Beaky | Photos courtesy Adams Golf
It started, as so many things do, over drinks at a bar in Las Vegas.
It was February of 2011, and Gonzales — a graduate of Olympia’s Capital High School — was a PGA Tour rookie looking to have a little fun. An old friend told him about Twitter, and how you could interact with celebrities. Gonzales was intrigued.
“She said, ‘You’re a funny guy, you should make a name for yourself by being funny on Twitter to get people to follow you,’” he recalls. “She said, ‘You should tweet Tiger.’”
A few minutes later, that first tweet was sent, followed shortly by a second:
Of course, Woods didn’t respond — but some of his 2.3 million followers did, as well as some of their followers, and other golf movers and shakers. With every successive tweet in Tiger’s direction (Another sample: Anybody have a pill that will give me six pack ABS while sitting in my hotel room doing nothing @TigerWoods how you look like that?!?), Gonzales’ followers increased, passing 1,000 in April, then exploding in June when a column by Rick Reilly ran on the front page of ESPN.com the week of the U.S. Open.
“The man is more fun than a boxful of puppies,” said Reilly in his column, the headline of which cited Gonzales’ Twitter slogan: “Half man, half amazing.”
In the year since, Gonzales’ unique wit, fearless charm, accessible personality and Kenny Powers-esque appearance has made him a fan favorite at nearly every Tour stop he’s played, whether on the PGA Tour in 2011, or the Web.com Tour (formerly known as the Nationwide Tour), where he’s played in 2012.
He often grants fans’ ticket requests, leaving envelopes at will call. He exchanges jokes with Masters champions (Bubba Watson), U.S. Open legends (Lee Janzen) and world No. 1s (Luke Donald) as if he’s known them all his life. And rain delays or long waits at airports become Twitter question-and-answer sessions, where no topic is off the table, from his largest-ever bar tab (“More than I want to say”), to his favorite beer (“Mac & Jack’s IPA”), NBA Draft predictions (“Who cares?!?! Seattle Sonics are no longer”) — even his thoughts on Scandinavian death metal (for the record, he’s not a fan).
From a small following of a few hundred friends and family just 18 months ago, Gonzales today has over 20,000 followers, his appeal rooted in an honesty, humility and openness that gives golf fans the distinct impression that they can relate to Gonzales, that he’s “one of them” — similar to the relationship that developed between fans and golf’s original “man of the people,” John Daly, in the early ‘90s.
While it has driven his popularity to heights few Web.com Tour golfers achieve, @Andres_Gonzales has, however, threatened to overshadow Andres Gonzales himself — a hard-working, highly skilled professional golfer who would much rather make a name for himself by beating Tiger Woods on the golf course then by joking around at his expense online.
“He may act like he’s just out there having a good time, but don’t kid yourself, he definitely cares,” said golf course architect John Harbottle, in an interview just weeks before his sudden death of a heart attack in May. Like Gonzales, Harbottle was a member at Tacoma Country & Golf Club, and tracked Gonzales’ development as a player, and a person.
“Even when we’re just playing together at Tacoma, he absolutely wants to win,” said Harbottle. “Nobody gets to where he is as an athlete without that kind of competitive spirit.”
Gonzales confirms Harbottle’s assessment.
“Whatever people want to write about me is great, whether it’s Twitter, or anything els e,” he says. “It’s been fun to have so many people know who I am. But my whole goal is to be known for golf.”