The 10 Coolest Latin America Amateur Gamer Stories | Golf News and Tour Information

The Latin American Amateur Championship, suspended in 2021 due to COVID-19, is back for a seventh edition, returning for the third time to the Dominican Republic’s Casa de Campo. Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira of Colombia, No. 43 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, is the favorite, while two former champions – Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica (2016) and Argentina’s Abel Gallegos (2020) – seek to become the first twice winners. .

Much of LAAC’s charm, however, comes from the players lower in the rankings, some of whom have taken unpredictable and inspiring routes to the championship. The championship is organized by Augusta National, the R&A and the USGA, and the winner’s rewards – a place in the Masters and Open championship as well as a pass to final qualification for the US Open – are life-changing for golfers. Here are 10 domain names you may never have heard of before, but whose stories are unforgettable.

Camilo Avila, 25, Bolivia

Avila’s biography presents the image of a larger-than-life figure – the University of Texas-Arlington graduate began his golf career at the age of 2, fetching balls that his father was crushing on the clothesline of their new Bolivian home while waiting to be accepted by the country club. After graduating in 2019, he worked with Tiga Sports Network in Bolivia as a researcher, writer, journalist and voice-over specialist. He was also a radio host for international football matches, but put his entire career on hold to start his own frozen food business, Gogo, and all in a country with less than 200 registered golfers.

Fred Biondi, 21, Brazil

Biondi is a redshirt junior at the University of Florida, and what makes his golf course so unique is that he moved to the United States at age 15 due to lack of golf resources in Brazil. . More intriguing is this and he made the move by himself. Since then he has won the Florida Junior Amateur (twice), the Florida Amateur Public Link and, last June, the Florida Amateur Championship at Streamsong Resort.

Andrey Borges, 20, Brazil

Borges is the son of a chicken farmer near the border with Uruguay, and the only time he was able to play golf when he was young was when his uncle, a caddy at the Livramento Country Club, the took it on Mondays when the club was closed to members. It made it strange that his classmates called him wealthy, thinking golf was only for the elite. Like Biondi, he left home at 14 to stay with another family so he could practice at a golf club. A year ago, he competed in nine amateur events and won four.

CONTINUED: Latin America Amateur turns out to be more than just a bold idea

Ezequiel Cabrera, 14, Paraguay

On the one hand, it’s no surprise to see Cabrera here – you might not recognize his name, but you will certainly recognize the name of Carlos Franco, who won the PGA Tour four times and twice so far. present PGA Tour Champions, was a top-seven finish at the Masters in 1999 and 2000. Franco is Cabrera’s uncle, and that’s just the start of the family’s golf ties; his other uncles Angel and Ramon Franco are also professionals, and there is no shortage of golf instructors related to him by blood, including his father. What’s surprising about Cabrera is how quickly he was able to qualify for LAAC – at 14, he’s the youngest player on the board.

Alvaro Ortiz, 53, Costa Rica

On the other side of the age divide is Ortiz, the oldest player in the group of 102 players at 53. But while he may be almost four times Cabrera’s age, he’s just as capable of winning, and almost did in 2017, when he took a 36-hole lead and finally finished a shot off. playoffs. Ortiz is one of seven players to have participated in every edition of the LAAC. Don’t confuse him with the other Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico, who won this event at Casa de Campo in 2019 and is the brother of PGA Tour golfer Carlos Ortiz. The elder Ortiz scoffs at the name connection and once told his younger counterpart that “if he finds a girlfriend and she calls me by mistake, I’ll be sure to refer her to him”.

CONTINUED: Simple motivation pushed the world No. 1 amateur to the Asia-Pacific Amateur title

Javier Correa, 43, Ecuador

There’s a peak late in life, and there’s everything Correa accomplishes. He didn’t even start playing golf until he was 13, but it’s a natural late bloomer, so it’s only natural that he’ll make his first LAAC appearance after his 40th birthday. But that’s not the only thing he has going for him – Correa is also a scratch tennis and paddleball player, and while living in Miami, he won a USTA state championship. arranging a trip to Las Vegas to compete for a national title.

Jeronimo Esteve, 40, Puerto Rico

Esteve’s grandparents fled Cuba for Puerto Rico when Fidel Castro took over with nothing but some jewelry that his grandmother smuggled in her underwear. Today, Esteve is Vice President and General Manager of three Headquarter Automotive dealerships in Orlando, a company owned by his father. Esteve is a Caribbean amateur champion, but his biggest struggle was beating Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2011. While undergoing chemotherapy, he competed in the US Mid-Amateur and just missed match play. On top of all that, during his formative years in Puerto Rico, Esteve was trained by none other than Chi Chi Rodriguez, who advised him to hit hard and hit high.

CONTINUED: At LAAC, players try (mostly in vain) to forget the Masters invitation on the line

Jean-Philippe Mehu, 20, Haiti

If there’s a big overlooked country here, it’s Haiti, which has never had a player who made the LAAC cut. But Mehu, who founded the club golf program at Florida International University, came second in a Florida regional club tournament shooting a 66 in the final, giving him a better shot than any other. But the best quiz on Mehu? He can “identify the brand of exotic sports cars just by hearing the engine”.

Segundo Oliva Pinto, 22, Argentina

This senior from the University of Arkansas has perhaps the most dispiriting history in golf. At the 2020 US Amateur at Bandon Dunes, he was facing eventual champion Tyler Strafaci in the round of 16, tied on the 18th hole, when his caddy was seen brushing the sand with his hands. It’s considered testing the surface of the bunker, and it cost him the hole and the match. But it’s the way Pinto reacted that’s really impressive. “I told her that if I can forgive her, anyone can forgive her,” he said. “My thought was, ‘I want to leave this place as a man’ and I think so. There’s always something positive in the negative.” Pinto finished eighth in the 2020 LAAC.

Joseph A. Sibilly Jr., 20, US Virgin Islands

What happens when you have a 20 year old painter and builder who lives on an island (St. Thomas) with no golf course and only started the game because he met a man who runs a junior program at church when he was 13? You get Sibilly, great-grandson of one of the men who planned and built the island. He represents USVI in beach volleyball, but this week he is also competing in LAAC. It’s his first time, and he’s the only USVI golfer on the course. And that’s exactly the kind of player that makes this event so special.

Michael C. Ford