Latin America Amateur Championship – What I’ve learned

Fergus Bisset talks about some of the things he's learned so far at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Buenos Aires.

Latin America Amateur Championship - Trophies
Latin America Amateur Championship - Trophies
(Image credit: LAAC)

Fergus Bisset talks about some of the things he's learned so far at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Buenos Aires.

1 – These guys are good. The level of golfing talent on display this week is way beyond my expectation. As I write this, the leading player in round two has reached seven-under-par (Andre Tourinho of Brazil,) and there are 22 further golfers currently under par for the tournament. And this is, by no means, an easy golf course.

But it’s not just the scoring that’s caught my attention. It’s the way these youngsters play the game. There’s an extraordinary amount of flair and individuality to be seen out on the fairways in this tournament. I haven’t seen two golfers with obviously comparable swings. Some of the actions could, at best, be described as unorthodox.

Although most of the players here are in elite programmes, either with their home country or at a U.S. College, it’s clear they’ve been encouraged to develop their games while maintaining their unique golfing personalities. It’s something I think is so important for finding true sporting (not just golfing) talent. The all-time sporting greats, whether Lionel Messi, Roger Federer or Seve Ballesteros have possessed a touch of unquantifiable genius that cannot be coached. In young sportspeople, the spark that’s in all of them has to be given a chance to ignite, rather than extinguishing it by an overly regimented coaching programmes. I’ve seen young golfers in the UK with great potential, who have become blinded by technical details at an age when they should just have been thinking about ripping it down the middle and firing at the pin. Watching these young lads play is refreshing.

2 – The people of Argentina (and those I’ve met from the other Latin American countries) are incredibly friendly. Despite the best recent efforts of Jeremy Clarkson, I’ve encountered only smiles and generosity since I’ve been here.

Last night I went out in Buenos Aires with a group of journalists – all of whom come from Central and South America. I was apprehensive at joining the party at first, thinking I might be out on a limb as the only English speaker, but I decided not to be such a wimp and just go for it. As with most things you’re slightly nervous of doing, it’s always worth taking the plunge. We had a great time and all of the guys and girls from Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Uruguay and, of course, Argentina made a concerted effort to keep me in the loop. I felt, (as we Brits so often do,) totally pathetic that I have such a limited ability to speak any other language, and I told them so. They laughed but looked at me as if to say, ‘yes, it is a little odd.’

We toured through the amazing, sprawling boulevards of central BA, past the iconic obelisk in the Plaza de la Republica, the stunning Opera House and bustling theatre-land. We then went to a golf simulator bar in Downtown Buenos Aires, “The Green Club,” where we had a riot completing a longest drive and nearest the pin contest. The longest drive was up the 18th of the Old Course at St Andrews – slightly surreal. I felt I owed it to my homeland to put in a good showing and was a little miffed that I failed to get over Granny Clarke’s Wynd. I can only think the wind must have been howling into my face.

3 – The food here is insanely good and I’m trying desperately not to put on about three stone in the course of a week. Obviously the steak is famous and the Malbec is rather drinkable too. On the first night here, I went with some journalists (including Andy North) plus a couple of the guys from The Masters and The R&A to “Cabanas Las Lilas” – one of BA’s most renowned steak houses. I didn’t need to eat again for the entire next day! After a series of amazing “amuse-bouches,” I had a rib-eye that must go down as the best I’ve ever eaten – as smooth as butter and with a delicious and distinctive flavour. I’m salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs just by typing about it.

So, that’s it for now. I’m going to head out onto the course to watch some more excellent golf and to try and catch up with a chap called Will Shoreman representing the Turks and Caicos Islands. Apparently he originally comes “frae Aberdeen.”

One further thing – Gerald Mathis of Haiti, who shot 110 yesterday, is getting on a lot better so far today. He’s only six-over for five holes. His story is pretty incredible – he’s 56-years-old and this is the first time he’s ever been off the island of Haiti – what an experience for him! He’s rapidly becoming a celebrity: interviews with ESPN and a growing gallery following his exploits. Go Gerald!

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?