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CEDAR RAPIDS — Conrado Chozas-Martinez is chasing a dream and the path has led him a long way from home.
Actually, he’s traveled more than 4,300 miles from his hometown in Spain to Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
The foreign exchange student has been a welcome addition to the Cougars golf team, trying to improve his chances of continuing his education and his golf career in the United States.
“My dream now is to study at university at an American college,” said Chozas-Martinez, 15, from Pozuelo, a suburb of Madrid. “I want to earn a scholarship. Golf will help me a lot. I would like to keep with my game.
“My parents taught me English is very important. This year, I wanted to improve my English. I think it’s going to be very good to learn another culture.”
Chozas-Martinez is listed as a junior on the Kennedy roster. He said the move was scary at first, adjusting to a new culture and being so far away from his support network.
It didn’t take long for him to become acclimated, taking in weekly football games with his classmates. He praised his host family, coaches and his teammates for helping him make the transition, comparing his teammates to a family.
“You live away from your parents out far from your comfort zone,” Martinez said. “It’s very interesting.
“All the people in the school are very nice to me. I’m very happy with that.”
One of the biggest differences is the competition. Sports teams in Spain are club-based programs, which are separate from schools. He was surprised people from school were interested in the golf team’s success.
The emphasis was on the individual for match play in Spain.
“I like to play golf a lot here in the U.S.,” Martinez said. “It’s a little different. Here, I play for the team. In Spain, it’s more for myself. Playing with the team is very good because I like to meet new people. I met fantastic friends. I’m very happy with my golf team.”
Chozas-Martinez began playing golf as a youth with family. He recalled visits to the course on Sundays to see his dad play. He became more focused on the sport as a teenager.
“I started to play serious three years ago,” Chozas-Martinez said. “I like it a lot. It’s my passion in life”
Kennedy returned state runner-up Brock Barnhart and state qualifier Jonah Beman. Chozas-Martinez stepped in to provide a third solid score. Chozas-Martinez tied Barnhart with the team’s best round in the season opener at the Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet.
Chozas-Martinez is third on the team with a 79.20 18-hole average. He is second in nine-hole average (37.67) and combined adjusted average (39.48). He has shot low rounds of 34 and 74.
“It’s kind of nice to have Conrado come in,” Kennedy Coach Mike Green said after the Cougars finished second at the Warriors Invitational. “He’s helped out a lot. He’s fit in with the group really well.”
Chozas-Martinez aspires to be like Spanish golfer Jon Rahm. He made the move to the U.S., playing for Arizona State University and playing on the PGA Tour. Rahm earned his first PGA victory in January.
“He’s like my model,” Martinez said. “He’s Spanish and earned a scholarship to study in Arizona. For me, that’s a dream I would be like him.”
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