17-year-old Abel Gallegos of Argentina won the Latin America Amateur Championship in Mayakoba, Mexico and will play in this year’s Masters and The 149th Open Championship.
Abel Gallegos of Argentina won the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) by four shots from Mexico’s Aaron Terrazas over the El Camaleon course at Mayakoba.
The 17-year-old Argentinian completed a superb final round of 67 to finish the tournament on four-under-par, claim the sixth LAAC and earn a place in both the US Masters and The 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
Gallegos is the first player from Argentina to win the LAAC after five previous instalments of the tournament.
“It was a great day, I felt the pressure this morning but I was playing well,” he said. “And everything seemed to work for me today, it just went my way!”
In far calmer conditions than on the first three days in Mayakoba, Jose Vega of Colombia began the final round with a two-stroke lead over Gallegos.
But the Argentinian quickly drew level as Vega dropped a shot at the opening hole and Gallegos birdied the 3rd.
Both men picked up a stroke at the par-5 5th before Gallegos moved in front with another gain on the 7th.
When he got to the top of the board, Gallegos stayed there for the rest of the round.
Although he dropped a stroke on the 14th, he closed out the win in some style with a birdie on the final hole.
Gallegos plays on a nine-hole course back in Argentina and this is the first time he has participated in the LAAC.
“This is something incredible for my home town and my home club, all the people there.” he said, “I dedicate this win to them.”
A powerful ball-striker with a great touch, Gallegos looks to have all the skills necessary to cope well with the challenges posed by Augusta and Royal St George’s.
Gallegos competed in the 2018 R&A Junior Open in St Andrews and finished in a tie for fifth place.
“Yes, I’ve played in St Andrews before so I have had the experience of links golf,” he said “It’s very different and you have to adapt but playing there (St George’s) with the best professionals is going to help me a lot.”
Gallegos intends to pursue a career as a professional golfer and will look to follow in the footsteps of 2018 LAAC winner Joaquin Niemann who is currently just outside the top-50 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
In winning the sixth LAAC, Gallegos receives an invitation to compete in the 2020 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club and, for the first time, he qualifies automatically for The 149th Open at Royal St George’s.
Gallegos also receives full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, U.S. Amateur Championship and is exempt into the final stages of qualifying for the 120th U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot.
“It’s incredible, like being in a dream right now,” said Gallegos. “It’s what every kid dreams of, to play The Masters and The Open. I can’t believe it.”
Home player Aaron Terrazas also closed with a 67 to climb into runner’s up position.
The 22-year-old came home in 33 to end the week on level par.
As runner-up Terrazas is exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The 149th Open and the 120th U.S. Open Championship.
“I’d been thinking I would turn professional so I will now have to let every sink in and decide what is the best route for me,” said Terrazas.
There was disappointment for Colombia’s Jose Vega who had led the event through 36 and 54 holes.
He three-putted the 72nd green to drop out of a share for second place and to miss out on a share of the runner’s up prizes available this week.
Ivan Camilo Ramirez, also of Colombia, ended the week in fourth spot with Chilean Gabriel Morgan Birke in fifth.
The 2021 LAAC will be contested at Lima Golf Club in Lima, Peru.
LAAC Final Leaderboard
1 Abel Gallegos (Arg) -4
2 Aaron Terrazas (Mex) E
3 Jose Vega (Col) +1
4 Ivan Camilo Ramirez (Col) +4
5 Gabriel Morgan Birke (Chi) +5
T6 Benjamin Saiz-Wenz +6
T6 Julian Perico (Per) +6
8 Segundo Oliva Pinto (Arg) +7
T9 Lukas Roessler (Chi) +8
T9 Emilio Gonzalez (Mex) +8