Sports has been a part of Oscar Cardenas’ life since he was young. First it was baseball, but now golf is his passion. For the past 28 years, Cardenas has been the head coach of the Del Rio High School golf program. Still, his life has taken him to a variety of states, allowed him to cross paths with a variety of celebrities and given him the dream of one day playing on the PGA Senior Tour.
1) I’m the youngest of seven children, though one died prematurely. There were four boys and two girls and we were all raised by a single parent – our mom, Edelmira “Del” Cardenas.
2) My first love was baseball. I played from Little League all throughout high school. I was a left fielder. I even played some college ball, though it was a sanctioned baseball club at Southwest Texas. It didn’t become an official sport there until after I left.
3) I played with the Expos when I was younger. They were a semi-pro team here, and we were owned by a guy from McAllen. I played along some of the best players in Del Rio’s history including Gene Flores, Gene Selmon, Lavell Blanks, Steve Bixby and Preston Tucker. Roger Blanks was our coach, and we played teams from Austin, Houston, McAllen, Midland and San Angelo. I also played in Acuña … team Carta Blanca. I was 16 years old and was paid $50 a game.
4) I picked up golf the first year I was teaching. A student in middle school taught me the game. I was asked once by Doug Newton how I could play in a tournament with so many older men. My answer was simple, “All I care about when it comes to golf was drinking beer, smoking cigars and hitting the ball.”
5) When I first began teaching, I taught seventh grade football, basketball and track in addition to my regular teaching and coaching duties. I was also the assistant high school baseball coach under Hodie Garcia.
6) Lupe DeHoyos offered me the head golf coach job. That was in 1992 and from then on I have coached exclusively boys and girls golf.
7) I won the club championship at the San Felipe Country Club in 1993 and 1994. It was a bigger tournament then and there were a lot of very good golfers competing – Clint Block, Andy Dayton, Aaron Billings. There were 12 flights, and there was a waiting list just to get in.
8) I’ve played in several PGA qualifying tournaments. I played in Midland, the Valero Open qualifier and the U.S. Amateur qualifier. I made it to the second day but didn’t make the cut beyond that.
9) I have one daughter, Kristina. She played for me two years and then broke my heart to go and become a cheerleader. She currently attends UTSA and is set to graduate next December.
10) My teams have won countless district titles, coached several regional qualifiers and had two players – Luke Healy and Guy Goodspeed Jr. – make it to state three straight years. There have only been three years out of my 28 years of coaching that my teams didn’t reach the regional tournament.
11) One thing people don’t know about me is that I love to dance. They call me the “Texas Tornado.” I learned when I was younger … all self-taught. I enjoy dancing to country, Mexican music, salsa and sometimes bust out moves from the 70s and 80s.
12) I have played against a couple of future major leaguers – Calvin Schiraldi and Roger Clemens. I played against them when I was in high school. It was a tournament in Austin.
13) During the flood of 1998, myself and a friend named Steve used his boat to help rescue people around Fox Drive and Plaza Street. I lost my whole house … everything in the flood. We were even presented an award from the VFW for our actions. It’s something I usually don’t talk about.
14) I was the pool manager for the city of Del Rio for 15 years. I also trained lifeguards along with Carol Mireles and still serve as a CPR instructor. I also ran the base pools for five years.
15) I collect all kinds of sports memorabilia. I have photos and autographs from a variety of star athletes from golf, football, baseball and more. I have autographs from Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Lee Trevino, John Daly, Roger Staubach, Clint Longley, and others. My personal favorite is an autographed photo of Mickelson from his first Masters win. He’s truly a professional, a great example of a sports celebrity because he signs for everybody – from kids to adults. He takes the time to do that and makes sure everyone gets something.
16) My first job was as a recreational scorekeeper for the city’s basketball and softball leagues. Lupe DeHoyos gave me the job after my mom was in a serious accident when I was a teenager. He offered a lot of support and helped guide me through that rough time.
17) I’ve been married to my wife Sylvia for 18 years. I met her when I went to Del Rio National Bank to do some mutual funds. She was the assistant vice president. She puts up with all my nonsense, and she’s my right hand. I wouldn’t be where I’m at if not for her.
18) My mom has always been my biggest supporter. She always told us she wanted us to be better than she was. I’ve always carried that with me, and it led me to becoming the first in my family to graduate from college. She’s 82 years old and still works at SAS not because she has to, but because she likes to. She always told me don’t work just to work. Do it because you love what you do.
19) My goal is to work about 10 more years and then try out for the PGA Senior Tour. There are more qualifiers for the senior tour, so I’m going to give it a shot. You never know until you try.
20) I’ve had nine hole-in-ones in my time playing golf. The last one was about eight years ago. •