Fergus Bisset is at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic to watch the 2016 Latin America Amateur Championship. The winner will receive an invite to the 2016 US Masters.
In January of 2015 I travelled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to cover the inaugural Latin America Amateur Championship at Pilar Golf Club. An event created by The Masters Tournament, the R&A and the United States Golf Association, its objective was to promote and grow the game of golf through South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
It was a brilliant tournament, run superbly well and showcasing and incredible selection of talented golfers. I was amazed by the skill level and the flair of the young players I saw out there and, as a golf lover, it was brilliant to be able to watch, and speak to, a new generation of stars. Matias Dominguez of Chile was the winner and, as a result, he was given an invite to play in the 2015 Masters and entry to final qualifying for The Open Championship and The U.S. Open Championship, plus entry to The Amateur Championship. Runner-up Alejandro Tosti also played The Amateur and in final qualifying for the two Opens.
When an invitation came into the GM office for a representative to travel to the Dominican Republic to cover the second instalment of this exciting and progressive tournament, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and put my hand up, “volunteering” to attend.
And here I am, touched down and ensconced in the media centre at the Casa de Campo resort, excited to get out on the course to watch some action on the second full practice day. A number of the favourites for the tournament are giving press conferences this morning and more about those later. For now, let’s concentrate on why this event is so important and significant?
It’s evident from wandering around the resort this morning. There’s an incredible buzz amongst the young players, the media, the organisers, the staff in the resort and other guests. Flags and banners showing impressive sponsors like IBM, Rolex and 3M confirm this is a big deal. The winner of this event will play at Augusta, coaches from top US colleges are here to scout talent and TV crews are setting up to send pictures across the world. This event has clearly developed since last year as word has spread about the opportunities presented by the LAAC. There’s a palpable sense of expectation here.
For those in the field, just playing in the tournament is a great achievement and will provide an invaluable experience. Yes, the prizes for the winners are significant but participation itself is huge for many of these young guys. They’ll gain confidence, they might be spotted by a college coach, they might play well enough to get picked for national teams again – there’s a broad scope of possible openings out there.
The tournament venue will add to the excitement. The Teeth of the Dog Course at Casa de Campo is one of the very best in the Caribbean. Designed by legendary course designer Pete Dye, it features a selection of spectacular, oceanfront holes that should come across brilliantly on TV and in photographs.
The excitement is building and I’m going out now to soak some of it up. More later with a preview of some of the leading contenders. Watch this space.