Hurricane Maria Interrupts a Puerto Rican Golfer’s L.P.G.A. Dreams

That win capped Torres’s college career, which included five victories, 16 top-10 finishes and 2017 first-team All-American and All-SEC honors. She was the Gators’ first All-American since Sandra Gal, a current member of the L.P.G.A. Tour, in 2007.

Torres won the individual conference title in 2016 as a junior and helped the Gators finish second as a team. As a senior, she finished fourth individually and helped Florida win its first SEC title in nine years.

Photo

Torres, right, with Janice Olivencia, an associate head golf coach at Florida, who is one of only two Puerto Rican women to play professionally.

Credit
Tim Cowie Photography

When the hurricane tore through the Caribbean, Torres was just weeks away from the second stage of the L.P.G.A. qualifying tournament.

She found herself among the millions of Puerto Ricans wrestling daily to meet their basic needs. Electricity and internet in her family’s home were down, and cell service was spotty. Her family had no running water for two days, and they cooked simple meals on her grandmother’s portable gas stove.

With temperatures in the 80s and 90s, Torres and her family moved into her grandmother’s house, where a small generator enabled a tiny air-conditioner to hum at night as eight people slept on mattresses on the floor.

“We would still have to wake up around 1 a.m. and go try to find gas for the generator, usually getting back home around 3 to 4 a.m.,” Torres said.

In the afternoons, she would help her aunt wash the family’s sweat-soaked clothes by hand.

They developed a system with two clean trash cans, filling one with water and detergent to soak the clothes for an hour, before shifting them into a second can of water to rinse.

Once the clothes were washed, they went on elaborate clotheslines behind Torres’s grandmother’s house.

“Everybody’s laundry was hanging up on the improvised lines strung up all over the neighborhood,” Torres said with a laugh.

For 10 days after the hurricane, Torres prepared for the qualifying tournament by practicing putts on carpet and chipping balls in a local park.

A Puerto Rican national coach eventually got Torres a flight off the island in time to practice for the second stage of qualifying. She flew to Gainesville, stayed with former college teammates and focused on golf. Torres finished tied for 21st to…

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