GCSAA Class A superintendent Jose Alvarez on ABC’s “Holey Moley,” a mini-golf competition featuring NBA star Stephen Curry as resident golf pro. The series, which attracted 3.7 million viewers for its Season 3 premiere in June, is filmed at Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, Calif., previously the site of the obstacle course show “Wipeout.” Photo courtesy of ABC/Christopher Willard
He kept a secret from his wife, absorbed spritzes of hair spray, and donned patterned trousers that looked like they’d come from major champion John Daly’s closet.
Such is life as a TV game show contestant, and the national audience recently got to know GCSAA Class A superintendent Jose Alvarez when he competed on ABC’s “Holey Moley,” which aired the final episode of its third season on Sept. 23. Alvarez spent two weeks in March in Santa Clarita, Calif., filming the show.
“What an experience. Crazy fun,” says Alvarez, a 16-year association member who is on the board of directors of the Central California GCSA.
He was sworn by producers to keep the outcome of the show to himself until it aired. Spoiler alert: Alvarez did not triumph. What he has done for quite some time, however, is win over co-workers and patrons at Fort Washington Country Club in Fresno, Calif.
Had Alvarez won the $250,000, he planned to donate a portion to Valley Children’s Healthcare in Madera, Calif., for the construction of a miniature golf facility. “He thinks of other people,” says Ron Aoki, a regular at Fort Washington CC. “Jose is just very respectful. Calls everybody Mr. or Mrs. He’s a very dedicated employee.”
Joe Tessitore and Rob Riggle hosted Season 3 of “Holey Moley,” which kicked off June 17, 2021. Stephen Curry is an executive producer of the series. Get a look at the action:
Alvarez, 52, was raised in La Rosa, Mexico. His family of six moved to the U.S. when he was 11. He spoke no English at the time, and golf was unfamiliar, but he found meaning and success early on picking grapes in fields, earning as much as $100 a day — not bad for a 13-year-old. “I’m grateful and proud to be part of this great country,” says Alvarez, who became a U.S. citizen in 2001. He credits his work ethic to his father, Rogelio.
As he got older, Alvarez thought he was on his way to becoming an auto technician — until he was diagnosed with allergies from dust he encountered while sanding cars he painted. In the early 1990s, golf beckoned. His brother-in-law, Sal Aguirre, was working at Fort Washington CC and helped Alvarez land a laborer role. In time, Alvarez became an equipment operator, then head mechanic of golf course equipment. The club — including director of golf Alan Ehnes, whom Alvarez views as his mentor and who was instrumental in advancing his career — was so fond of Alvarez that it paid his way through college. Fort Washington CC also coaxed renowned local superintendent Owen Stone out of retirement to lead maintenance for eight years and prep Alvarez to take the next step.
“When I became superintendent, the responsibility was a load on me. I knew how to do the job, but now I was on the hot seat,” Alvarez says.
“He’s a dedicated worker, a great superintendent that is working alongside his staff. His hands are dirty,” club past president Greg Loosigian says of Alvarez. “That’s why we like him so much.”
Right: Alvarez near the first hole at Fort Washington Country Club in Fresno, Calif. He did the final grading on the tee and sodded the complex with his crew. Photo by Gary Kazanjian
Fort Washington CC opened in 1923 as a nine-hole course with sand greens. Nowadays, soil challenges Alvarez at what now is an 18-hole, 6,700-yard-plus facility. “We have heavy soils. Constant drill and fill, aerification to make it more porous. We use a lot of sand to change soil structure,” says Alvarez. The maintenance team includes Alvarez’s dad; his brother, Roger; Juan Salas, who has been at the facility for more than three decades; and equipment manager Danny Martinez. “For us, it’s always, ‘Let’s go out and get the job done.’ Great crew,” Alvarez says.
For two weeks in March, they held down the fort at Fort Washington as Alvarez immersed himself in “Holey Moley” with the club’s blessing.
What prompted his turn on TV? “We were watching it one season, and she (Alondra, Alvarez’s daughter) said, ‘Would you do that?’ I said, ‘Yeah, in a flash.’ I was acting all macho,” Alvarez — who also has a son, Jose — says with a laugh. “She put in my name. They ended up calling me. I was supposed to do it, but then COVID hit, and they told me they’re not going to need me after all. I was kind of disappointed. But they called me back early this year and asked if I was still interested. Two months later, I was headed to Santa Clarita.”
The contestants were tested daily for COVID-19, and none of Alvarez’s family was allowed to be there. The show was filmed from roughly 8 p.m. until 5 a.m., sometimes in temperatures that dipped into the 40s — not exactly what Alvarez would’ve preferred. “I’m a day guy. I probably slept two hours a day. That was it,” he says.
“Holey Moley” might best be described as miniature golf meets mayhem — a supersized version of putt-putt with the added test of an obstacle course. On what’s known as the Corn Hole, for example, one wrong move can hurtle a contestant into a pool of spongy, jumbo corn kernels. Being an accurate putter is crucial to earning points. In Round One, Alvarez sank a putt to advance in the series. “It was a good 6 feet. I saw that ball go in before I hit it,” he says.
Alvarez attempting the Corn Hole and the Fishing Hole on the quirky (and perilous) “Holey Moley” golf tract. Photos courtesy of ABC/Christopher Willard
Alvarez was allowed to go home one day during show filming. His wife, Maria, grilled him, but he kept quiet. Upon his return for good in late March, Alvarez still got the third degree. “She said, ‘Did you win? How far did you get?’ I said, ‘Am I going to have to go and sleep in our trailer?’ I thought that trailer was going to be home for me for a while,” he says. On Sept. 23, the entire family and dozens of club members attended a watch party of the season finale to learn Alvarez’s fate.
He didn’t collect the quarter-million-dollar winnings, but Alvarez is rich with ideas moving forward. He still wants to help make that dream of a miniature golf course at Valley Children’s Healthcare a reality. “I’ve had my heart set on that,” says Alvarez, who has built his own miniature golf course in his backyard.
As for his time on TV, Alvarez says he’s grateful to Fort Washington CC for allowing him to leave his 120-acre cubicle to pursue it. If anything, the show has inspired him to be even better for the club. “The show correlates to my life,” Alvarez says. “I get to work with people, have fun, socialize, do something that can be rewarding, and I get to do it at a great place that has not only helped me better myself but also kept me around for a long time.”
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.