MERIDA, Mexico — When University of South Florida sophomore and Chilean native Claudio Correa opened the 2015 Mexican International Amateur with a two-over par 74, he trailed the leader by four shots. Three rounds later, Correa had himself a runaway 10-stroke win at Yucatan Country Club, thanks to three straight under-par rounds to close out the tournament.
Jose Antonio Hernandez of Mexico was that opening-round leader, but by the end of the second round, in which Correa fired four-under 68 and Hernandez struggled to a 76, Correa had already overtaken the San Luis native by four. Hernandez settled for a fifth-place finish, closing with even-par 72 on Sunday.
Correa, who just finished his freshman year at USF, was named the American Athletic Conference Freshman-of-the-Year, along with earning an All-Conference honor, as well.
Thursday's first-round conditions proved difficult, with Hernandez's 70 being the lowest score of the day. But the final three days gave way to plenty of sub-70 performances, including four that were posted on Sunday.
Correa stepped on the first tee Sunday already holding on to a large nine-stroke advantage, and needed just 71 in the closing round to extend his final lead to double digits. His game plan:
"Doing what I do ... play quietly and think about every shot."
At the over 7300-yard Jaguar Course at Yucatan CC, that strategy paid off with not only the championship, but an exemption into this Summer's U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields.
"Being now in the U.S. Amateur changes my plans," said Correa. "I will now return to the United States to play a couple of tournaments and then back to Chile [where he was originally planning to rest] -- now I have to work to the maximum and get really ready for the US Amateur."
Tying for second place were Santiago Gomez of Colombia, who will be a senior at Nova Southeastern University in the fall, and future Florida Gator Jorge Garcia of Venezuela, who captured the Terra Cotta Invitational back in April.
Gomez and Garcia both went low in Sunday's final round to rise to the runner-up position, with Gomez posting 68 and Garcia firing 69.
Lynn University junior Mateo Gomez, a Colombian with no relation to Santiago Gomez, took fourth place at six-over par 294. He rebounded strongly from a third-round 77 to shoot 71 on the final day and jump back into the top-five.