Saddleback golfer with dark past has inspired comeback story

Sam Apresa practices his swing at the Saddleback College Golf Driving Range on a bright Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Tameem Seraj)

Tameem Seraj

His love for the game of golf and his strong Christian faith helped 34-year-old Saddleback student Sam Apresa overcome drug addiction and finish school.

Apresa is currently playing in his first season for the Saddleback golf team and is going for his associate of science degree in human services. His future is looking bright for him, but getting to this point was a rocky path.

Apresa was born in Bakersfield on Nov. 9, 1977 to Joe Apresa and Rosalinda Lewis. He is the youngest of three boys and was home-schooled for 10 years starting in the second grade. He started classes at Los Angeles Valley College at the young age of 13 and his first course there was ping pong.

But when Apresa was 16 his father introduced him to the game he would fall in love with, golf.

“I love the beauty of the game and the beautiful courses, especially the ones by the beach. I feel like I am in nature while on the golf course,” Apresa said.

His golfing career was temporarily derailed a year later in 1994 when his parents got a divorce and Apresa stopped playing. He picked the game back up when he was 20 and in 2001 even thought about trying out for the Amateur Open when he had his handicap down to two.

But when Apresa was 19 he picked up a new hobby, one that almost killed him, crystal meth.

“I felt like I was invincible while I was using,” Apresa said.

In 1998 Apresa got married but divorced only a year later. He had two daughters with his ex-wife, 13-year-old Alyssa and 12-year-old Alexis. Apresa’s daughters are currently with his ex and he has not seen them for seven years. He also has a 5-year-old son named Seth from a different relationship.

In January, 2006 Apresa took his addiction and his sense of entrepreneurship to Las Vegas. Apresa and his brother Michael, who is a year older, wanted to open an advertisement company. But the advertisement company soon turned into a furniture store.

Apresa got into trouble with some bad people which led to some close calls, he said. His partner made some bad deals with a biker gang on the outskirts of Vegas and the gang put a hit out on Apresa and his partner. The leader of the gang’s daughter was fond of Apresa and eventually cleared his name. he said.

Another incident also involved Apresa’s partner making a chain of bad deals. Four guys with guns showed up to his apartment and tried to get in. A neighbor saw the men with guns and quickly called the police who showed up in time before they got into the apartment, he said.

One of Apresa’s lowest points on drugs was when he almost overdosed in Utah. He had heart palpitations and went into a coma. Paramedics revived him and when he woke up he said he felt depressed and scared.

In January, 2007 Apresa made the decision to move to Orange County to enter a rehabilitation program for his addiction. He entered Teen Challenge which is a 15 month live-in program. He finished the program in October, 2008 and has been free of crystal meth since June 4, 2007.

Apresa credits his strong faith and the help of God for getting him through his addiction and get his life back on track. Apresa attends church regularly on Sundays. He goes to Cross Point in Yorba Linda and Vineyard Church in Laguna Niguel.

Three months after finishing Teen Challenge, Apresa went back to the game he loved and started golfing again. He uses golf to find some inspiration or as a source of relief.

“I do a lot of thinking on the course,” Apresa said. “When I get stressed I go play a game.”

Apresa got into the golf team by meeting his now teammate Brian Boermeester in a class they had together. Boermeester encouraged Apresa to tryout for the team.

Apresa said he enjoys being on the team and has improved his game under coach Mike Rae and other instructors at the Saddleback range. He gets along well with his teammates and jokes often with them.

“They call me grandpa and I call them my sons,” Apresa said.

Even coach Rae enjoys having a good role model as a student athlete.

“[Apresa] adds stability and maturity to the team. [Apresa] doesn’t cause problems and is not a distraction and is responsible by showing up on time,” Rae said.

Apresa hopes to one day be a golf instructor and infuse his passion for the game into others. Another goal Apresa has is to be a drug and alcohol counselor so that he can reach out to a younger generation and tell his story so that others don’t have to suffer like he has.

He is currently working on an autobiography and it is a quarter of the way completed.

He still has a sense of entrepreneurship and he wants to open an outdoor lighting business with a friend.

Apresa has two classes remaining before he gets his A.S. degree and he is excited to walk when he graduates.

“It will be a huge self esteem boost because I have started but not completed many things in my life,” Apresa said.