The Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) was originally created to become the “Major” event for leading amateurs in the region. After just two editions, this championship, created by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA), continues to inspire amateur golfers throughout Latin America by providing a top-tier platform in which to compete.
Those present at the LAAC at Pilar Golf (Argentina) in 2015 and at Casa de Campo (Dominican Republic) in 2016 witnessed tremendous performances by emerging stars. Witnesses and followers at home watching on television or via the Internet, saw first-hand the thrilling battle between Chile’s Matias Domínguez and Argentina’s Alejandro Tosti, and the accomplishment of Costa Rican teenager Paul Chaplet against the Venezuelan Jorge Garcia.
A third LAAC is now on the horizon, scheduled from January 12-15, 2017, at Club de Golf de Panama. Among the contenders are several top players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, including Joaquin Niemann (No. 7, of Chile), Tosti (No. 43), Dominguez (No. 44), Jorge Garcia (No. 48, of Venezuela), Claudio Correa (No. 57, of Chile) and Cristobal del Solar (No. 99, of Chile). These players have tremendous potential, as do Luis Fernando Barco (Peru), Gaston Bertinotti (Argentina), Nicolas Echavarria (Colombia), Santiago Gomez (Colombia), Herik Machado (Brazil), Jose Luis Montano (Bolivia), Alvaro Ortiz (Mexico), Iván Camilo Ramirez (Colombia) and Lucas Rosso (Chile).
This year’s players making up the competitive field use many different playing styles and tactics. Tosti and Echavarria enjoy length off the tee, which often pushes them to be risk-takers. Tosti, the 2015 LAAC runner-up, is having a successful second year at the University of Florida, including a victory at the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational. Echavarria has qualified for Second Stage Q School on the Web.com Tour, as well as the final tournament of the Developmental Series of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
Other players focus on swing technique and course management, excelling with their short games. Niemann has notched six victories in 2016, including the IMG Academy Junior World Championship, and reached the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur Championship. The player from Chile was the best amateur at the 111° VISA Open de Argentina and won the Pereyra Iraola Cup. Garcia, who finished second at the 2016 LAAC, has finished in the top 10 of his last two tournaments at the University of Florida, and also tied for seventh at the 2016 World Amateur Team Championship. Ortiz, a graduate of the University of Arkansas who finished third at the 2016 LAAC, has a lot of experience.
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 146th Open at Royal Birkdale and sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills.