As the 108 participants begin to pack their luggage, early predictions have begun as to the identity of the successor of defending champion Abel Gallegos of Argentina and win the seventh edition of the Latin America Amateur Championship.
“Mateo Fernández de Oliveira is the highest in the rankings and has a huge chance of winning, as does Segundo Oliva Pinto,” said Argentine professional Jorge Fernández Valdés of his home country’s favorites. “And of the other players who are going to compete for Argentina, I think Vicente Marzilio also has possibilities.”
Fernández Valdés recently won the 115th Argentine Open in Buenos Aires and with it an invitation to the 150th Open Championship. The winner of the LAAC also earns a spot in The Open at Saint Andrews as well as an invitation to the Masters Tournament and automatic entry into the final round of qualifying for the U.S. Open Championship.
“There is an interesting mix of young people and some with a little more experience, like Carlos Rodriguez. I feel that he has a chance to win and that there is an open window for him,” said Colombian Sebastian Munoz of his young countryman. Muñoz, No. 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking, has already played in two Masters, two Open Championships and three U.S. Open Championships.
Valery Plata, the top Latin American woman in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (No. 42) and winner of the first Women’s Amateur Latin America, likes the chances of another Colombian, Juan Camilo Vesga. “He is a good player, he has had the opportunity to compete a lot and, if he has his week, he can clearly win,” Plata said.
Although they’ve come close on several occasions, no Colombian player has yet conquered the LAAC. Meanwhile Chile already has three victories and hopes to revalidate its dominance in 2022. “I have several favorites among my Chilean friends, like Lukas Roessler, although they all have possibilities and I will be attentive watching them,” said Joaquin Niemann, winner of the 2018 LAAC, PGA Tour champion, and the current No. 31 player in the world.
Mexico’s Aaron Terrazas, who finished second in the 2020 LAAC and is a member of PGA Tour Latinoamerica, highlighted Luis Carrera as a player to watch. “He [Carrera] has a chance because of the way he handles himself under pressure and a strength that perhaps others do not have,” Terrazas said. He’s hopeful for another LAAC title for Mexico after Álvaro Ortiz’s win the last time the championship was held in Casa de Campo in 2019.
“I totally trust that any Mexican can take the title again,” said Isabella Fierro, the No. 50 female amateur in the world and older sister of 16-year-old competitor Alejandro Fierro. “The key is that he [Alejandro] trusts himself because he has an impressive talent.”
Beyond the countries that have already claimed an LAAC title, it is important to consider the experience of the Puerto Rican and Panamanian players, as well as the chances of LAAC veterans like Peruvian Julián Pericó.
“Julián has been playing very well and I’m sure he will represent us in the best way,” said Luis Fernando Barco, the first Peruvian to compete in a U.S. Open (2021) and the third-place finisher at the 2019 LAAC.
There is also the local advantage of the Dominican golfers, whose talent continues to grow every year. “In 2019 we had to leave good players out of the team and this time the same thing is happening. It gives you an idea of the Dominicans’ chances of victory,” said Juan Jose Guerra, who now competes on PGA Tour Latinoamérica.
Each and every amateur arrives in Casa de Campo with aspirations of taking home the LAAC title and the amazing opportunities that come with it. From the likes of former champions Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica and Abel Gallegos of Argentina, to the dozens of newcomers and veterans alike, it’s anyone’s guess who will be the 2022 LAAC champion.