Panama Steps into the Golfing Spotlight in Latin America

The growing economic power of this small Central American country is largely based on the famous Panama Canal. This engineering jewel – the perfect connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans – is a key driver of trade and business throughout the hemisphere.

Panama enjoys sustained growth thanks to an increasing flow of maritime traffic. Walking around the city center and appreciating the constant construction of huge and modern office towers gives visitors the impression that the country is becoming increasingly prosperous.

In this impressive context, golf is also enjoying remarkable growth. It is not by chance that the organizers of the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) selected Panama as the site of its third edition, which will be conducted from January 12-15, 2017, at Club de Golf de Panama. As the event moves throughout the Latin American region, the founding partners – the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA) – recognized that the attributes available in Panama make it an outstanding host for the third staging of the championship.

The opportunities offered by the LAAC are unprecedented within Latin American golf. Each year, the LAAC champion receives an invitation to compete in the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, as well as full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible. In addition, the winner and the runner(s)-up are exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open Championship.

When it was revealed which country would host the 2017 LAAC, it was no surprise that the chosen site, rich with history and tradition, was Club de Golf de Panamá. This golf course is conducive to hosting a championship of this caliber and one that has also hosted a Tour event since 2007.

But Club de Golf de Panamá is just one of the many recognized golf courses in the country that has around 2,000 registered golfers with the Panama Golf Association (APAGOLF), though many more play the game.

Tourism and the growing number of golf courses go hand in hand. There are 12 golf facilities in Panama, and the site of the LAAC is one of the most prominent. The Summit Golf Club, Coronado Golf & Beach Club, Buenaventura Golf Club and Mantarraya Golf Club at Decameron are all top-class golf courses that enhance Panama’s reputation as one of the leading golf destinations in Central America.

Among Panama’s leading amateur players looking to feature in the 2017 LAAC is Luis Cargiulo, who won the Campeonato Nacional de Istmo, the most important amateur golf event in Panama. “This was one of my goals. Winning the Isthmian qualified me for the LAAC, the tournament that all amateur golfers want to play. In Panama, we are very grateful to the three organizations for considering us as the hosts of such a prestigious event,” said Cargiulo, 30, who also represents Club de Golf de Panamá.

Another player to look out for is Miguel Ordoñez, who played in both editions of the LAAC and who has also won the Campeonato Nacional de Istmo (an event that was first played in 1918).

“For Panama it is a privilege and an honour to be the host of the LAAC, which will surely provide many benefits for golf in our country,” said Jorge Loaiza, President of the APAGOLF. And he is right: The arrival of the Latin America Amateur Championship will definitely change the history of amateur golf in the entire region. In just a few months, confirmation will come in Panama.