“I’m the longest shot in the game!” jokes Federico Alba, the younger brother of World Golf Hall of Famer Martha.
Federico has been coaching golf for years, but in 2006, he decided to take a new career path by becoming a professional bullfighter. Instead of lounging on the course giving players lessons, Federico has made the sport his passion, even teaching elite pros like Casey Martin, a six-time PGA Tour player who suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident. And though it’s not uncommon for professional golfers to take travel jobs or jobs as corporate golf caddies — his brother, for example, played 14 years with the Maryland Sheriffs Golf and Country Club before he quit due to health concerns — Federico’s lifestyle is more extreme.
“To me, it’s a big mistake to do sports,” Federico says. “It only gives you pain. I love the gym, I love to work out, and I love to eat right. So I said, ‘Why not add a little bit more to that?’ ”
During his journey as a bullfighter, Federico began to think about another potential career: golf coach. After all, the sport provides very little in the way of stress — and the whole sport is “positive,” he says. “You play the game for fun, you’re good friends with your opponents, you take the trophies home to your family. It’s like anything else.”
He couldn’t find an “international image” to incorporate into his image, though, so he decided to become a bullfighter first. A few years later, though, Federico’s motivations for taking up the sport of bullfighting had completely changed.
“Once I decided to leave the sport, I went to find a school,” he says. “When I went to find a school, they had all of these computer classes. We didn’t have computers in bullfighting schools. They had to learn that I wanted to teach the next generation. And I said, ‘You have to have computers.’ But I always said, ‘You have to have a good coach, and they need to have a good trainer.’ ”
At that time, Federico had started thinking about a new profession: golf coach. He had been toying with the idea for many years, though, and all that traveling took its toll on his mental health. He’d been working full-time in Italy with the university team and trying to earn a doctorate in physiotherapy, and once he decided that one particular person needed a change, it was too late to stop.
The first person he turned to was his cousin, Martha Alba. With her help, Federico realized that there are many similarities between the way he approached bullfighting and golf. There’s “an element of pain and self-pity,” he says. But there’s also a focus on not breaking the bones, a matter of “90 percent of our success comes from the little things.” And as far as the fear factor goes, Federico says, “I never felt too much fear.”
So why didn’t he stick with his decision to focus solely on the bullring?
“At the time I had been travelling the world, coaching the best players in the world, it was becoming difficult to have to leave that world to coach in Sicily,” he says. “And at that time, I felt I had to ask my sister.”
And that’s how he got his first coach, Italian professional golf course director Rosario Carbo, on board. He applied for a scholarship from the Italian Golf Federation, and was accepted. Upon his arrival to Sicily in 2013, Federico soon began helping Carbo train young professionals.
In 2014, Federico started teaching under Carbo’s supervision. After a while, he began working on more and more teaching clients. He asked himself a question: If you were to make a mirror image of yourself, how would it look? Would you see something that you admire in someone? Federico saw potential in James Bowie, who was 22 years old when he was recommended to Federico.
“I thought, ‘You have great mental ability,’ ” he says. “You know when you understand a person, and that you really love a person? You’re here to be a mentor to a lot of young people.”
Over the next four years, Bowie worked as a pro and worked