16-year-old Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica held his nerve to win the Latin America Amateur Championship by a single shot at Casa de Campo.
Paul Chaplet carded an excellent closing round of 70 in difficult conditions to finish the Latin America Amateur Championship on three-under-par, one clear of Venezuela’s Jorge Garcia.
The teenager began the final day four shots off 54-hole leader Gaston Bertinotti of Argentina and three behind Garcia. But as the leaders faltered on the front nine, Chaplet raced to the turn in 33 and moved to the top of the board.
Chaplet held steady with three straight pars from the 10th but he then dropped a shot at the 13th. He bounced back immediately though with a birdie at the par-5 14th after a sublime chip-and-run from a tricky lie through the green.
“That was probably my key shot today,” Chaplet said. “It was a tough situation and I knew I needed to make a birdie there.”
Playing in the group behind, Garcia struck back with an eagle on the 14th and, after Chaplet bogeyed the hugely difficult par-3 16th, the pair were tied on three-under.
The closing stretch on Pete Dye’s Teeth of the Dog course at Casa de Campo is tough at the best of times but with a strong wind whipping off the ocean, it was even more testing. Chaplet, the youngest player to make the cut, held his nerve brilliantly with pars at both the 17th and 18th holes.
Andy Sullivan on how to play in a crosswind:
Garcia dropped a stroke on the 17th and, despite a fine approach to the last, he was unable to make the birdie he needed to force a playoff. The title and the incredible prize of an invite to the 2016 Masters went to Chaplet.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “To keep on pushing to the end, to stay focused and patient and to come out on top is just fantastic.”
As the winner of this tournament not only will Chaplet receive an invitation to the 2016 U.S. Masters but he will also earn an exemption into The Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl and to any USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible (including the US Amateur.) Both Chaplet and Garcia gain an exemption to Final Qualifying for The Open Championship at Royal Troon and final stage qualifying for the US Open at Oakmont CC.
Chaplet will be the first Costa Rican and first player from Central America to play at Augusta.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play in The Masters and I can’t quite believe it,” said Chaplet. “I can’t wait to play in all the events I’ve qualified for, it’s going to be an incredible experience.”
Chaplet’s friend and teammate Andres Russi caddied for the champion on the final day and Chaplet was quick to suggest his pal may reprise that role at Augusta in April.
“Yeah, I think my caddy for the Masters is sitting right there,” he said nodding at Russi.
Garcia was keen to take the positives after his second-place finish and is excited at the prospect of travelling to the UK for Open Qualifying.
“I played really well today and hit a number of good shots that were right on my target,” he said. “I just didn’t have much luck on the greens, but the way I played will give me great confidence… I’ve never been to the UK but it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit and I’ll look forward to making the journey.”
Overnight leader Gaston Bertinotti struggled on Sunday and finished with a 77 to end the week in a tie for sixth place.
Last year’s runner-up Alejandro Tosti (also of Argentina) had another superb tournament. He closed with a 74 to finish on two-under-par in a tie for third with Luis Fernando Barco of Peru and World Junior Champion Joaquin Niemann of Chile.
Defending champion Matias Dominguez of Chile finished in a tie for 30th place on 10-over-par.
Latin America Amateur Championship – Final scores
Teeth of the Dog course, Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic
Par 72, 7,274 yards
1 Paul Chaplet (CRC) 73 71 71 70 285
2 Jorge Garcia (Ven) 71 72 69 74 286
T3 Luis Fernando Barco (Per) 73 69 76 69 287
T3 Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 73 71 72 71 287
T3 Alejandro Tosti (Arg) 75 65 73 74 287
T6 Ivan Camilo Ramirez (Col) 72 72 75 69 288
T6 George Trujillo (Ven) 73 74 71 70 288
T6 Jesus Dario Montenegro (Arg) 72 71 72 73 288
T6 Gaston Bertinotti (Arg) 75 67 69 77 288
T10 Jose Luis Montano (Bol) 72 69 79 70 290
T10 Juan Miguel Heredia (Ecu) 72 71 75 72 290