Three-time PGA Tour winner Camilo Villegas has welcomed the launch of the new Latin America Amateur Championship announced earlier last week.
One of the leading figures in the Latin American game, having been ranked as high as seventh in the Official World Golf Ranking, Villegas believes the new championship will provide a springboard for emerging young players in the region who aspire to become tour professionals.
Villegas, who has played in The Open Championship on five occasions with his highest finish coming at Turnberry in 2009 when he tied for 13th, said, “With golf returning to the Olympics Games in Rio and the success of PGA Tour Latin America, now is really the perfect time to focus on Latin America as the next frontier for golf.”
The R&A is working in partnership with the Masters Tournament and the USGA to support the new championship which aims to encourage the growth of the game throughout South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The inaugural championship will be played at Pilar Golf in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 15-18 January 2015 over 72 holes of strokeplay with a cut for the leading 60 players and ties after 36 holes.
Villegas (32), who is from Medellin in Colombia, welcomed the coming together of the organisers of three of golf’s Major Championships to support the growth of the game in the region.
“I’m so happy to see The R&A, Augusta National and the USGA investing in the future of the game in Latin America. As a sport, golf is definitely growing in Latin America, but this championship offers a new set of goals and rewards for Latino golfers.”
“I feel passionately about growing the game in Latin America, and particularly in Colombia, and I will continue to do all that I can to support the amateur and professional game both in Latin America and around the globe.”
Invitations for the championship will be sent to the leading players from the 27 IOC-recognised countries and territories from Latin America that are current members of the International Golf Federation.
Each country/territory will be automatically provided two positions, which will be filled by their highest-ranked players from the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) as of November 1, 2014. National associations which do not have players in the ranking will be invited to nominate up to two players and the remainder of the field will be filled by the next highest ranked players in WAGR. Countries will be allowed up to six players with the exception of the host country which will be allowed ten players.
The Latin America Amateur Championship follows the success of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship which was established in 2009 by The R&A and the Masters Tournament and has seen players such as Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and China’s Guan Tianlang emerge as champions and make an impact on the professional game.
For more information about the Latin America Amateur Championship visit www.LAACgolf.com.