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Jay Calvo: From the Heart of West Texas
There is a corridor of road that starts in West Texas, a region that boasts a lifestyle ethos born of the vast expanses of openness and desert that surround the area. As the car drives down Interstate 20, one can find various destinations for people looking to move away from urban life. Families settle down in such towns and cities that boast a middle-America feel and small-town family values.
One-by-one, these small boondocks pass by from Pecos, to Odessa, to Midland and so on until you have passed through the great state of Texas completely, crossing the Louisiana state line. In the midst of such a drive one may blink as they pass through Baird, Texas, a whistle-stop nestled just east of Abilene. Baird, named after Matthew Baird, a director of the Texas and Pacific Railway in the late 1800s, is a "robust" city of 1,600 citizens and the home of Liberty senior golfer Jay Calvo.
Calvo is the youngest son of Raul and Susan Calvo and used the sleepy town located in the desert plains of West Texas as the backdrop where he launched his budding golf career. Calvo, like his two older brothers, shares his father's first name of Raul. There is the oldest brother, Raul Regala, who is called RC, and there is Raul John who goes by RJ. Calvo's full name is Raul James, and he takes the nickname of Jay to differentiate which Raul he is.
It is always with family where the story begins and with Calvo, nothing is different. It was the patriarch of the Calvo household who introduced the game of golf to his three sons. When Calvo was three, his father had a golf club in hand and his youngest son on the links. Brothers RC and RJ helped transition a hobby to most, into a lifestyle for the youngest Calvo. On hot Texas summer days growing up, Calvo was dragged to the course by his brothers when they were looked upon to babysit, feeding Jay's love for the game.
Calvo honed his craft and starred at Baird High School, where there were 38 students in his graduating class. Upon graduation, Calvo looked at attending Texas Tech, like his older brothers, with the intent to walk on to the Red Raider golf team.
But the notion of being the first collegiate athlete in his family burned strong. Abilene Christian offered him a scholarship, as did St. Edward's in Austin. That is when a phone call from Liberty head golf coach Jeff Thomas changed everything.
"It was April of my senior year and Coach Thomas called me up," said Calvo. "He flew me out to Lynchburg to check out the school. I fell in love with the campus and the program immediately."
The program fell in love with Jay too when, in his freshman year, the Texas native helped Liberty to the NCAA Tournament in 2006. It marked the second time in program history the golf squad received an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, and the feat still marks the only Liberty Athletics program to receive an at-large bid to any NCAA Tournament.
"That was a fun season," said Calvo. "I am so proud to be a part of that team. We won three tournaments that season, giving us momentum throughout the year. I will look at that team with fond memories the rest of my life."
Calvo was a key member of that squad, appearing in 10 tournaments, including the NCAA East Regional at the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando, Fla. Calvo finished the year with the fifth-best average on the team at 75.8 over 33 rounds.
"It was such a treat to play on that Lake Nona course," reflected Calvo. "It ranks up there on my list of favorite courses to play. Another one was the North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill., where we played at Northwestern's Windon Memorial Classic this past October."
Calvo finished middle of the pack out of 81 golfers at the Windon Memorial Classic, an impressive feat when the field featured eight of the 15 participating squads owning slots in the Top 25 at the time of the event.
"I have been blessed to play golf all over the country by attending Liberty," said Calvo. "The Northwestern tournament was a first-class event that was run like the PGA Tour. It was a special experience from the individual lockers for each of the golfers to the business dressy dinner we attended the first night."
Despite the jet-setting tournaments the Liberty golf team travels to and the array of locales and country clubs Calvo has visited as a Flame, it always comes back to the flat and dusty courses of West Texas.
"One of my closest friends at Liberty was former Flames golfer Stephen Hawk," commented Calvo. "We both grew up in small towns, and our golf games are similar because we grew up playing on similar-style courses.
"He grew up in West Texas where there was a huge need to be able to play in the wind, much like my experience in Southern California where it is extremely windy during March and April," said Hawk.
Hawk graduated in May and hails from Holtville, Calif., a small farming town in the southeastern part of the state. It is fitting for the duo that Calvo and Hawk had facing pages in the 2008 golf media guide.
"We spent a lot of free time going fishing at Liberty," said Hawk. "We found some excellent streams nestled around the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was nice having Calvo around, because we were able to relate to each other through our backgrounds. We are both from small-town U.S.A. and share a great identity with each other."
Regardless of where Calvo travels, there is a piece of Baird that joins him on his travels. Calvo's mother, Susan, bestowed a 50-cent piece from 1966 upon him during high school.
"My mom thought it would make a good ball marker," reflected Calvo. "I have used it every day since high school. The year on the coin has no particular meaning, just a gift from my mom, and serves as really my only ‘superstition' on the golf course, if you can call that a superstition. But I do make sure I place it back in my bag for safe keeping."
Calvo has come to Lynchburg, a city on the banks of the historic James River, to play a sport he loves as he obtains a college education. With a May 2009graduation date penciled in the books and a bachelor of arts degree in sport management, Calvo plans his return to the romantic plains and breezy desert landscape of West Texas, in hopes of immersing himself in the business side of professional sports.
And at only 22 years of age, this golfer is bringing his vast Liberty experience back home to be an influence to others for years to come. Because after all, Calvo is just teeing off on the early holes of the front nine of his life.
Vincent Briedis is an assistant athletics communications director for Liberty University's men's basketball, golf and athletic website programs.