Aaron Jarvis made history for the Cayman Islands when he secured a memorable triumph in the 2022 Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) at Casa de Campo.
The 19-year-old posted a final round of three-under-par 69 to finish on seven under par for the championship and secure a one-stroke victory over a chasing pack of Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira and Vicente Marzilio of Argentina, Brazil’s Fred Biondi and Santiago De la Fuente of Mexico.
Jarvis secures a place in the 2022 Masters Tournament, The 150th Open at St Andrews, The 127th Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur Championship and the final stages of qualifying for the 2022 U.S. Open.
Each of the chasing pack had chances to finish on seven under but a missed birdie putt from close range on the 18th green proved particularly costly for De la Fuente, and Marzilio failed to hole his eagle putt from around 12 feet, while Biondi will rue a bogey 5 on the 17th.
Jarvis showed great resilience to bounce back from a bogey and double-bogey on Nos. 8 and 9 with four birdies on the back nine and was able to afford a dropped shot when he found the water on the par-3 16th.
“Honestly, I can’t even get the words out,” said the elated seventh champion of the LAAC.
“I just tried to get myself to have some good birdie looks and they went in. I was in a comfortable position because there wasn’t much pressure. I knew all the cameras were going to be with the other groups,” said Jarvis, currently ranked at 1,669 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR).
Jarvis’ win against players from more established and much larger golfing nations is a huge result for the Cayman Islands, which has a population of 71,000 and just 27 holes of golf on the three islands.
“Aaron has continuously improved at every level during his golf career. He has the strength and power to play at the highest level and he complements those characteristics with a contagious work ethic,” said A.J. McInerney, his assistant coach at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas.
Jarvis’ previous best round at the LAAC was a 73 in the second round at Casa de Campo in 2019, where he missed the cut. His older brother Andrew also represented Cayman Islands at the 2019 and 2021 LAAC. “Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine this,” said his proud father, Robin Jarvis.
Biondi led for much of the final round having come from 10 strokes back in the third round to be one off the lead coming into today, but couldn’t quite maintain his excellent form on the closing holes.
“It’s a great experience, and yeah, I am upset. I think I am definitively good enough to win and I just could not get the job done,” he said.
De la Fuente focused on the positives after coming so close to securing a playoff place with Jarvis. “I’m happy with my tournament. I could have done more but there’s no reason to blame that one putt on 18. A lot of other putts throughout the day could have dropped,” he said.
Fernández de Oliveira, the recent winner of the South American Amateur and the highest ranked player in the LAAC field at 38th in the world, shot a bogey-free last round of four under to finish one stroke short of the winner. “I feel like I played pretty good this week. I gave myself a chance, which is what I was looking for,” he said.
Four players from the University of Arkansas golf team finished under par: Fernández de Oliveira (-6), Colombian Juan Camilo Vesga (-2), Peruvian Julián Périco (-2), and Argentine Segundo Oliva Pinto (-1).
Jarvis is the first LAAC champion from the Caribbean and the seventh after the victories of Chileans Matías Domínguez (2015), Toto Gana (2016) and Joaquín Niemann (2018), as well as Costa Rican Paul Chaplet (2017) and Mexican Álvaro Ortiz (2019), who both won at Casa de Campo. Argentina’s Abel Gallegos, the winner in 2020, finished T-12 in the 2022 championship at one-under-par 287.
The 2023 LAAC will be played at the Grand Reserve Golf Club in Puerto Rico from 12-15 January.