RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico.- Eyes widened when Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA, announced yesterday that the champion of the Latin America Amateur Championship will also qualify for the US Open, as well as securing tickets to this year’s Masters and British Open. It means that the amateur who consecrates himself this Sunday at the Grand Reserve Golf Club will play three majors in 2023, a privilege of only a few among the professionals and the chance to make himself known globally in world golf. At the awards ceremony, the winner will pose with the flags of three of the four events that make up the Grand Slam.
Over time, the LAAC added benefits: first it was only the appointment at Augusta National, then the chance to try out the links in England or Scotland and, now, access to the most emblematic tournament in the United States. “We are excited to provide a ticket to the US Open for the winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship beginning in June at the Los Angeles Country Club. The incorporation of this exemption increases our commitment to the development of golf in Latin America and recognizes the level of talent that competes in this championship,” Whan said. The news began to spread rapidly among golfers as they finished their rounds on the par 72 layout, that complicated with the wind and the lagoons. The possibility of reaching the US Open causes a double effect: adrenaline and another dose of pressure that the LAAC already brings in itself.
Although the pointer after the first round is the Colombian matthew fuenmayorwith 66 (-6), the Argentines are clear protagonists: four of the eight participants appear in the top 8 of the board. The best of the albicelestes so far is Vicente Marzilio, one shot from the lead and with the ambition of someone looking for a sporting revenge, because he had finished second in the 2022 event in Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic. A location as an escort that left him both frustrated and anguished, because he was very close to winning. “I dreamed of this lap every day since the previous LAAC ended; I felt very nervous the night before, but during the round I focused on my routine and my breathing”, commented the golfer from the University of North Texas, who added: “From the experience of 2022 I learned that there can be many leaders in the board; I have high expectations, but I must calm down.”
The great candidate
The most visible face of the Argentine delegation is Matthew Fernandez de Oliveira, who faces his fifth presence in the LAAC and arrives with the second best ranking of fans in the tournament (34th). In two of the last three holes, he barely needed the ball to turn another half turn to add two birdies and equalize in the vanguard with the Colombian Fuenmayor. In the end, he rounded off a score of 68 (-4), but he was left with a good feeling. Likewise, he freely received the status of his favorite: “Being considered a candidate adds confidence to me; the rest is to compete. And in golf anything can happen”, says the 22-year-old player, from the University of Arkansas.
There are more Argentines on the lookout, like the Cordoba Manuel Lozada and Andrés Schönbaum (son), both with 69 shots (-3), which appear in eighth place. And the remaining four, both Juan Martin Loureiro as Second Oliva Pinto, Matthew Pulcini and Diego Prone, they signed the total pair (72) so as not to lose hope.