HONOLULU – Few things come easy in the Chaco, Argentina's sweltering hot, sparsely populated, vast northwest province.
The capital city, Resistencia (population: 350,000), has but one major golf course, the Chaco Golf Club, where it is said the term "greens" is mostly wishful thinking.
Yet, it has somehow produced three winners on the PGA Tour, where the appellation "El Chaqueno" – the one from Chaco – is worn as a badge of honor and as a symbol of considerable accomplishment in the face of long odds.
First there were Jose Coceres (2000) and Fabian Gomez (2015), but the one with the flowing blond locks, Emiliano Grillo, may have the most golden touch of all of them as he tees off in the Sony Open in Hawaii today.
Four events into his rookie year, the 23-year old Grillo has already earned $1.2 million, his first tournament victory and notice as someone to watch in 2016.
In the space of four months he's gone from the European Tour to winning the Web.com Tour Championship, earning a PGA Tour card and winning the Fry's.com Open with a 25-foot putt in a playoff.
"It has been an amazing ride and I'm enjoying every second of it," Grillo said. "It is something I've dreamed about, of course, and worked hard for, but it really happened fast."
He has thrust himself into the conversation with the "11s" – a group of fast-rising players who finished high school in 2011 and competed atop the amateur circuit – including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Patrick Rodgers.
So much so that when Grillo out-dueled Kevin Na to win at Silverado, Spieth Tweeted, "EMMMILIIIIIIII first of many wins! Cool seeing the 11s always playing great @GrilloEmiliano @JustinThomas34 @PRodgersGolf @DanielBerger59."
But if Grillo's rise has seemed overnight, the journey has been considerable and, at times, daunting.
By his amateur play in Argentina, often traveling alone as a 13- and 14-year-old, Grillo earned a scholarship that allowed him to attend school and gain more advanced golf instruction in Buenos Aires.
Two years later, at 16, his potential was such that he received a scholarship to the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. At age 19 he turned down numerous college offers to become a pro.
Despite the rocketing start to his pro career, reminders of his hometown help keep him grounded. In the center of Resistencia, known as the "City of Sculptures," there are some 600 statues and murals, giving the town the appearance of an open-air art gallery. "There are sculptures of every kind, everywhere," Grillo said.
Former Masters and U. S. Open winner Angel Cabrera of Cordoba, Argentina, likes to remind Grillo and his Chaco compatriots that none of the sculptures are of them. "Cabrera makes fun of us," Grillo said. "He said there is even a statue of a dog. He said that the dog is more famous than we are."
Someday, Grillo said, "if we do well, hopefully, they'll make one of the three of us. That would be cool."
This article was written by Ferd Lewis from The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.