Toledo aiming to win Toshiba Classic

Newport Beach Country Club holds a special place in Esteban Toledo's heart.

He's hoping the course will become even more meaningful this weekend. One thing's for sure, NBCC will be a place for therapy for Toledo.

Toledo, a former honorary member at NBCC, revealed Wednesday his older brother, Mario, died of "health problems" last week.

Mario had been planning to be in Newport Beach to watch his younger brother, Toledo said. Instead, Toledo will travel to Mexicali for the funeral. He said he will not attend the burial because he is returning to Newport Beach to play in the tournament on Friday.

He said his family supports his decision to play and it's what his brother would have wanted.

"It is very difficult right now," Toledo said. "But I'm not going to have an excuse. I'm going to still move forward with my dream and my goal that I want to play. I'm not going to let anybody down. I'm going to try 100% to play and be focused on what I want."

Toledo said he was close with his brother, Mario. He said his son, Nicholas, manages his Twitter account.

"RIP to my Brother Mario I will miss you #god #praying," the tweet read on March 8.

Toledo, an Irvine resident, participated in the Pro-Am on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The self-taught Mexican golfer who was the subject of the book, "Tin Cup Dreams," knows the NBCC course well, having played it more than 100 times, he said.

He used the course to practice while he was on the PGA Tour.

He said he played in the Taco Bell Classic at Newport Beach about 19 years ago, that's when he met his wife, Colleen, a waitress at the club at the time. It really wasn't a story of love at first sight.

"I asked her to go out with me five times and she turned me down five times," he said.

Toledo, a former boxer, was determined to not quit without more of a fight. He asked her to go to a Huey Lewis & the News concert. She said no again, but later surprised him by showing up next to him at the show.

"It's probably the best decision I ever made in my life," Toledo said. "I think it is. So we have a little girl, Eden, and she was born in 1999. So it's been fantastic since then. The members gave me a membership, and so it's been great. So that is the reason that this tournament is very special to me."

Toledo, 50, is a rookie on the Champions Tour. He made his tour debut last year.

He has conditionally exempt status because he finished seventh at last year's Qualifying Tournament.

He is eligible to play until Jeff Brehaut and John Riegger — two of the five qualifiers ahead of him — become eligible later this year when they turn 50.

Toledo has been trying to make the most of his time on the Champions Tour. He said he was excited to play on the tour.

This year he finished tied for 13th at the Allianz Championship and a week later he finished tied for 36th at the ACE Group Classic.

But he's looking for his best finish this weekend.

"I play golf to win," Toledo said. "And winning here would be amazing for everybody. I've been waiting for this for so long because I took [the last] two years off to get my game together. And I like to play for the win. I don't like the second. I like to take it all. So these guys are going to be pretty good, but winning, coming down the stretch on the last hole will be a really special day that I will probably never forget."

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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