US Tournaments are Now More Accessible for Latin American Golfers

By - 14 December, 2016

Golf has been part of Latin American sport’s image for a long time now, even though it’s not quite as popular as football. There are some Latin American golfers who have won a number of great victories in the past in their own countries, across Europe and even on major US events, Fay Crocker and Roberto DeVicenzo being the first. Now there are several successful golf players, though they are facing some challenges to play and/or win at PGA tournaments for example. However, the establishment of the Latin America Amateur Championship in 2015 has provided a path for young talents from countries such as Argentina or Chile to the PGA Tour and Annika Invitational Latin America was inaugurated this year to give more opportunities to female amateur golfers from the region. So here is a quick review of some of the important steps marking the growth of Latin American golf.

Fay Crocker and Roberto DeVicenzo – the First Winners

In 1955 Latin America finally managed to prove that its golfers can win at major US-held tournaments when Fay Crocker became the first Latin American-born golfer to win the US Women’s Open. Crocker (2 August 1914 – 16 September 1983) comes from Montevideo, Uruguay and her love affair with golf started as early as the age of six, perhaps due to the fact that both her father and her mother were also prominent golf players. Fay won the national title 20 times and that of Argentina 14 times. She also competed in the US Women’s Amateur tournaments in 1939 and eventually became a professional in 1954. Fay Crocker won her first LPGA Tour title at the age of 40, which makes her the oldest player to do so. She also holds the record for the oldest women’s major champion and is the first woman outside the USA to win the US Open Women’s Championship. At the end of the golf season, Golf Digest honoured Fay by naming her the Most Improved Female Professional Golfer.

The international male success for Latin America came a bit later, in 1967, when Roberto DeVicenzo won the Open Championship. DeVicenzo was born in Villa Ballester, Argentina in 1923 and is one of the most prominent Latin American golfers of all times. With his more than 230 professional wins, two of which came at PGA Tour Champions and eight at PGA Tour, he deservedly entered the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1989. Prior to that he also received the Olimpia Award (an Argentine award given to an outstanding sports performer) in 1967 and 1970 and the Bob Jones Award in 1970, which is given by the United States Golf Association to distinguished golfers.

The first PGA Tour event to include three Latin American golfers

Latin American golfers finally made a statement on the golf field by invading the US-dominated PGA Tour in February 2011. For the first time three professionals from Latin America competed at the Phoenix Open, which was a milestone both for the region and for the PGA Tour. The golfers were coming from three different countries, Angel Cabrera from Argentina, Camilo Villegas from Colombia and Jhonattan Vegas from Venezuela. Even though none of them won the tournament, they marked the path for other Latin American golfers.

The establishment of Latin America Amateur Championship

Now, with the establishment of the Latin America Amateur Championship in 2015, access to US golf tournaments has become easier. The Championship is an annual tournament that is organized together with Augusta National golf Club, The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA). The winner gets an invitation to the Masters, The Amateur Championship and the US Amateur and both the winner and runner-up go to the final qualifying fields for The Open and for the US Open. The 2015 winner was Matias Domingues from Chile and for 2016 the victory was for Paul Chaplet from Costa Rica.

The ANNIKA Foundation comes to Argentina

The ANNIKA Foundation also approached Latin America and this year the foundation together with its partner The R&A established the Annika Invitational Latin America. This is an annual event that provides opportunities for amateur female golfers from the region. The winner will receive an invitation to the South American Amateur and the top three golfers will be invited to the ANNIKA Invitational USA held in Orlando, Florida. The host of the event will be Argentina for the first three years and as of 2019, the tournament will move throughout Latin America. The first winner of the Annika Invitational Latin America, which was held in October, was Agustina Gomez Cisterna.

Clearly, Latin American golfers are becoming more and more noticeable on major European and American events. So it is good to follow the golf news for their success or even place a bet on your favourite Latin American golfer and end up with a win-win situation after their victory on the tournament.

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