Esteban Toledo and the Mexican orphans for whom he built a home.
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he growing legend of Jordan Spieth on Sunday consigned other golf news to a footnote, understandably so. Money talks, and $22 million in a single season veritably screams. But he wasn’t the only winner.
A group of Mexican orphans, some not yet identified, prevailed, too, as did a relatively obscure Champions Tour player on their behalf.
Esteban Toledo won the Nature Valley First Tee Open on Sunday, defeating Tom Watson at Pebble Beach, a notable achievement in itself, but not his most important one.
Next week, the Esteban Toledo Family Foundation Home, an orphanage in his hometown of Mexicali, Mexico, on the U.S.-Mexico border about 120 miles east of San Diego, will be completed. About 20 orphans initially are expected to begin to move in soon after.
“It’s one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve ever had and dreamed in my life,” Toledo said on Tuesday. “Sometimes it’s not about me or you. It’s about helping others in this world.”
Toledo, 53, has been bankrolling the home by donating 10 percent of his Champions Tour earnings. He received $300,000 for his victory at Pebble Beach, which meant another $30,000 for the home. He has now contributed more than $107,000 this year alone and more than $300,000 in his three full years on the Champions Tour.
His success on the Champions Tour, which includes three victories, has helped him secure his own financial future, he said, and it was time to help others. “The reason is because I was adopted by the Minnises (Jon and Rita), so what they did for me, they changed me, they made me who I am. I could never thank them enough.”
Toledo and 10 older siblings were raised in squalor in Mexicali, in a three-room shanty with dirt floors and no electricity or indoor plumbing. He found golf via the caddie ranks at Mexicali Country Club.
The Minnises, with whom he had become acquainted when they visited Mexicali, were responsible for bringing Toledo to the U.S. and mentoring him as he pursued professional golf. Toledo eventually played eight full seasons on the PGA Tour, with modest success that included two second-place finished and $3.7 million in earnings.
The orphanage is his homage to them. It has 3,600 square feet and includes separate dorms for boys and girls, as well as a medical office that will be staffed by a doctor and a dentist. The goal is to produce young adults who are accountable, responsible and educated, Jay Miller, his agent and the executive director of his foundation, said.
Toledo will travel to Mexicali next week, he said, “to make sure all the legal papers are signed, that the crew is there. I want to make sure everything is going on the right track before the kids move in.”
Toledo frequently visits Mexicali, having supported another orphanage there for several years before deciding to build his own.
“He’d go down and hang out with the kids,” Miller said. “It’s not showmanship. It’s all from his heart.”