-Story by Ron Driscoll of the USGA
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Jan. 18, 2015) — Matias Dominguez, of Chile, holed a short bogey putt on the 72nd hole to hold off Alejandro Tosti, of Argentina, by one stroke and capture the inaugural Latin America Amateur Championship on Sunday with an 11-under-par total of 277 on the 7,255-yard, par-72 Pilar Golf course.
The final round was suspended for 4 hours by rain and wet conditions with the final two groupings playing the seventh hole, resuming at 3:45 p.m. Dominguez earns an exemption into the 2015 Masters Tournament in April, as well as exemptions into the Amateur Championship (conducted by The R&A) and the U.S. Amateur Championship (conducted by the United States Golf Association). He also earns spots in final qualifying for The Open 2015 and the 2015 U.S. Open.
“It was going well until probably the 13th hole,” said Dominguez, a senior at Texas Tech University. “The crowd made it really hard for me to focus. It’s almost impossible to keep calm in that position, but I tried to do my best. On that short putt [on No. 18], I couldn’t even feel anything.”
Dominguez, 22, the third-round leader by one stroke over Tosti, carded a final-round 71 as the championship came down to a near match-play situation between the two competitors. Dominguez led by three strokes after nine holes, but the lead was whittled to one when Tosti birdied the 303-yard, par-4 15th after driving the green and Dominguez bogeyed the next hole, the par-4 16th.
The 178-yard, par-3 17th proved pivotal. Tosti hit his tee shot to 20 feet, inside Dominguez, who was on the fringe. But Dominguez putted up to tap-in range, and Tosti knocked his birdie try 4 feet past the hole, then missed his par putt to restore Dominguez’s margin to two strokes with one hole to play.
“I never thought about the prize, because the tournament finishes on the 18th hole,” said an emotional Tosti after a runner-up finish that included 16 greens in regulation. “My putter didn’t work well today. I had 16 chances to make birdie and I only made three.”
Dominguez played conservatively on the par-4 18th, which features water on the right and in front of the green, and tapped in for bogey from 2 feet to earn the victory after Tosti made him earn it by saving his own par from 5 feet. Tosti, 18, who trains at the Argentine Golf Association’s performance center at Pilar Golf, will enroll as a freshman at the University of Florida later this month.
Tosti said, “I am proud and I am upset. But I have a lot of tournaments to play and golf is a long career.”
Dominguez, who is No. 421 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), has already played Augusta National. He and his Red Raider teammates visited there last January, a trip arranged by some Texas Tech alumni. Dominguez was joined in the LAAC field this week by two teammates, including freshman Guillermo Pereira, also of Chile, who is the top-rated player here, at No. 6 in the WAGR.
Pereira made a strong run on Sunday, reaching 9 under par for the championship and 6 under for the day with a birdie on the par-5 13th hole. “I felt like I needed to get to 10 under,” said Pereira, 19, but he slipped back with three bogeys in his final five holes to end at 6-under 282, in a tie for fifth place. Texas Tech senior Esteban Restrepo, of Colombia, tied for 15th place at 1-over 289.
Alvaro Ortiz, of Mexico, reached 10 under on his way to the low round of the day, a 5-under 67. Ortiz, 19, a freshman at the University of Arkansas and the brother of PGA Tour player Carlos Ortiz, made six birdies, but missed a 2½-footer to bogey the par-4 18th and finish at 9-under 279.
“I stepped on the tee and I felt like I was going to make birdie,” said Ortiz, who is No. 256 in the WAGR. “But I mis-hit my iron and left my first putt short from 30 feet. I know I was a little bit nervous. Maybe it was not the time for me, but I gave myself a chance to at least dream about the Masters.”
Andre Tourinho, of Brazil, the second-round leader, trailed Dominguez by five strokes starting the day but also made a charge, getting to 10 under, two strokes back, with a birdie on No. 13. However, he missed a 6-foot birdie putt after ripping his drive through the green on the short 15th, then bunkered his approach shot to bogey No. 16 and scuttle his chances.
Tourinho, 24, a graduate of the University of Tulsa, closed with a 4-under 68 to join Ortiz in a tie for third place at 9-under. Along with Joaquin Bonjour and Santiago Bauni, both of Argentina, Tourinho plans to attempt to qualify for the PGA Tour Latinoamerica in two weeks.
Dominguez is the second player from Chile to play in the Masters, joining Enrique Orellana, who missed the cut in 1964.
“Right now I don’t have any expectations,” said Dominguez of the Masters, adding that his top choice of a playing partner there would be three-time champion Phil Mickelson. “It’s my last semester at Texas Tech and I want to help my team and enjoy that time at Augusta with my family and friends.”