The third instalment of the Latin America Amateur Championship takes place this week at the Club de Golf de Panamá in Panama City. The winner will play in the 2017 Masters.
Final practice concludes today at Club de Golf de Panamá for the third Latin America Amateur Championship. Hosted by The Masters Tournament, the R&A and the USGA, this has become the most prestigious amateur event in Latin America and it welcomes many of the finest players from South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
With the winner set to receive an invitation to play in the 2017 Masters plus exemptions for R&A and USGA events, the stakes are high as the competitors complete their final preparations.
Golf Monthly will be here throughout the tournament to keep you up to date with proceedings and here we give a preview of what’s to come this week:
Par 70, 7,142 yards
Designed by Jay Riviere and Charles Schaeffer, the course at Club de Golf de Panamá opened in 1977. A traditional layout, it’s set over undulating terrain with firm, rolling fairways framed by an eclectic selection of mature trees. There’s plenty of run out there and a ball travelling off line could find trouble, either under the tree canopies or in one of the many intimidating water hazards that lurk ominously. The greens appear fairly fast but relatively receptive to a well-struck shot. With a par of 70 against a yardage of over 7,100 yards, this should be a week for the powerful hitters and solid ball-strikers.
Ball striking drill:
The course has, since 2004, been the venue for the Web.com Tour’s Panama Claro Championship. It’s proved itself to be a testing track with 15-under-par the lowest 72-hole total recorded.
5 Players to Watch
A number of players who have enjoyed success in the first two Latin America Amateur Championships will return this year, including the first two winners – Matias Dominguez of Chile and Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica. Who might be lifting the trophy at the end of the week and be looking forward to a trip to Augusta?
Joaquin Niemann (Chile)
The 18-year-old is the top ranked player in the field. He’s currently 5th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He was tied 3rd in this event last year, finishing just two behind the winner Paul Chaplet. He won six events through 2016 including a defence of the World Junior Championship. He reached the last 16 of the U.S. Amateur and has committed to play for the University of South Florida from this autumn onwards.
Alejandro Tosti (Argentina)
He’s the only player to have two top-three finishes in the first two instalments of the LAAC. He clearly has what it takes to win this event and he would dearly love to be champion. He’s in his junior year at the University of Florida and he won on his last Collegiate start at Isleworth where he posted a second round 65. A powerful and talented player, he has a great chance on this layout.
Jorge Garcia (Venezuela)
He was runner-up last year and finished in the top-10 in 2015. He’s ranked 38th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking and is a sophomore at the University of Florida. He was tied 7th in the individual section of last September’s World Amateur Team Championship.
Gaston Bertinotti (Argentina)
The 21-year-old is an exciting player with the capacity to shoot low scores. He was the leader of the 2016 LAAC through 54-holes but he struggled in the final round and finished in a tie for sixth. He’s in his senior year at Campbell University in North Carolina.
Nicolas Echavvaria (Colombia)
He led by three after two rounds last year only to finish with a pair of 77s to drop back into 12th place. But, he clearly has the game to challenge for the title. He won the 2014 Mexican Amateur Championship by a staggering 12 shots. He intends to turn professional later this year and would love to end his amateur career with a flourish.
As well as the prestige of being the best amateur in Latin America for the year, the winner of the tournament also receives: an invitation to compete in the Masters Tournament; an exemption into The Amateur Championship, an exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible. In addition, the champion and runner(s)-up receive exemptions into Open Qualifying Series – Final Qualifying with an opportunity to earn a place in The 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, plus an exemption into final stage qualifying for the U.S. Open with an opportunity to earn a place in the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
Club de Golf de Panamá
The Club de Golf de Panamá was founded in 1922 and was proud host to the Panama Open Championship through the 1950s, an event which boasts an impressive list of winners including, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Roberto de Vicenzo. The club moved to its present site in 1977. Since 2004 the Web.com Tour’s Panama Claro Championship has been hosted here.
“We are honoured to host the third Latin America Amateur Championship,” said Club de Golf de Panamá president Gilberto Arosemena. “Club de Golf de Panamá has a long history of welcoming golfers from throughout our region and around the world.”
By British standards, it’s hot! Averaging around 30 degrees C with just a light wind. There’s a threat of rain every day but it shouldn’t come to much. With luck, the tournament will run smoothly without any delays.