The saying’s ubiquitous: Roping is the golf of rodeo … which is lucky for 7.5 heeler Kevin Lozares because he’s a card-carrying PGA golf pro.
“They’re a lot more similar than you think,” Lozares posited. “Mentally, how you approach structuring practices and the mental game of it, looking at improving your roping as a marathon and not a race. Evaluating stats percentages. So, a little different approach to roping, but from that standpoint, I feel like roping and golf are identical.”
Lozares, 34, who’s originally from California, is a second-generation golf professional, and he was just 2 years old when he held his first club, but his grandfather was an RCA roughie, so it was just a few short years after handling a club that Lozares was climbing on calves. His roots in each sport shone through when, at age 15, he was the No. 1 golfer in Northern California and won the NorCal All-Around.
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His college career began with a golf scholarship from Texas’ Baylor University before he was awarded dual golf and rodeo scholarships at New Mexico State. While Lozares remembers the time as fun, it wasn’t without its challenges.
“I did well at both, but I missed the college Finals my junior year by two points in the calf roping and three points in the team roping, and I missed the NCAA finals in golf by a shot or two. I was trying my butt off; there just wasn’t enough time in the day.”
In the following years, Lozares re-prioritized and focused on his golf opportunities, but always maintained the goal of being a roper again.
“I sold my horses, truck, trailer, saddles—the whole deal—to start my golf business. I moved back to California with the intention of getting back into it when I was financially in a place to do it right and have nice horses, nice saddles and the whole deal, and be able to put time into it.”
As a golf coach, Lozares built his business for tournament players, or golfers who either played for a living, or aspired to play for a living, which means a lot of his coaching focuses on mental strategy and a tactic utilized by the Navy SEALS and made popular by Tiger Woods.
“I learned it from Sean Foley, who coached Tiger Woods,” Lozares said. “Tiger would actually practice and visualize how to get out of every scenario and situation that could possibly go wrong, and the Navy SEALS do the same thing. They throw obstacles and wrenches into the mission, so they’re prepared for anything. They hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”
When Lozares returned to the roping arena and subsequently moved to Texas with his now wife, Erica (née Krantz), he used these same strategies to bring his roping to the next level.
“When we moved to Texas, I was a straight 5 and, within a year, or maybe 14 months, I was a 7.5, and made the top 50 at the George Strait. Then, I made the short round at Salinas the first time ever going to it. I’d only been to like five ProRodeos ever. That was all in 2017, and I attribute 100% of that to the mental approach and how I was practicing.”
For you ropers who golf—and Lozares knows you are many, based on participation in the Rope & Stroke he and Erica put on each year—try this practice tip from the pro:
“The head of the golf club is like the tip of your rope. If you know where that is at all times, you can put the club wherever you want. Ninety-nine percent of golfers, especially ropers that golf, slice the ball, which means the ball curves from left to right. The reason for that is their club is approaching the golf ball swinging like a heel loop: angled down and to the left. Whereas, to hit it like a PGA Tour player, 100% of them hit it from the inside. So, it’s kind of like the old school teachings of right horn, left horn. You’ve got to start your downswing underneath the right horn and turn your body to get it over the left horn.”
Lozares notes that he’s also had the benefit of learning how to be a better coach through roping, as it provides him the exact perspective of an amateur.
“Roping actually has helped my coaching. The mental struggles that my students have in golf, or strategizing the golf course, are things that I struggle with roping. So, in golf, I’m a professional and have played enough and have so many rounds, tournament rounds, under my belt that I don’t have the same level of the mind getting in the way that an amateur might have.”
When it comes to roping, Lozares admits he actually struggles to have fun because he loves the all the competition so much. As such, he’s set some big goals for himself.
“My goal is to be the best 9 in the country that has a day job and works for a living. It’s kind of stupid because I won’t be able to rope in many ropings. I’m a 7.5 now, and it’s a really good number because I can rope up and down wherever, and I’m in a very good spot with my number going into Vegas, so that part’s great, but ultimately, I want to hit my goal.”
His game plan for getting that 9 revolves around improving his horsemanship, setting his Heel-O-Matic to the hardest setting and creating those unlikely scenarios, and putting in the time required to gain the experience and learning opportunities he needs.
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“My golf mentor, James Sieckmann, who was the national PGA teacher of the Year last year, he started programming me at 14 years old that champions and winners either win, or learn from every scenario that they’re in. Every shot they hit. Every round of golf. Every tournament that they play. Every run roping, every year of roping. They win or they learn from it.”
Lozares, in demonstration of his drive to do all the things, recently took a job in the oil and gas industry, ropes regularly with his coworkers at their Midland office, and has narrowed his focus as a golf pro.
“I’ve only kept a few students and so, Brandon Hagy, one of my PGA players, [I want to] help him win this year, and then continue to develop my student, Gavin Lane, who’s the No. 1 15-year-old in the country. He’s committed to Oklahoma State, so he’ll be a Cowboy.”
In the short-term, Lozares is preparing for the Ariat World Series Finale, where he’ll actually be heading in the #10—“We won Hamilton, the #10. That’s the only time I’ve entered heading, this year,” he said.
And despite his inability to just have fun roping, Lozares knows there’s a lot to love about roping, just like golf.
“It’s so much like roping. You see the same people all the time, like during a jackpot, there’s three or four hours where you might have time to foster relationships and a four-hour round of golf is the same thing. It’s a great game."