Latin America champ Gallegos wins the Azalea Invitational
- Azalea Invitational photo
- Azalea Invitational photo

Abel Gallegos shot a final-round 3-under 68 -- the only sub-70 score of the day -- to win the Azalea Invitational in his return to the Country Club of Charleston.

The 19-year-old from Argentina won the Latin America Amateur early last year, earning a berth in the Masters. When COVID-19 hit in the spring, both the Masters and the Azalea Invitational were postponed into the fall. Gallegos used the Azalea as a tune-up, finishing T39.

Related: Life-Changer: Gallegos wins Latin America Am, Augusta awaits

In his return just over four months later, Gallegos saw a different field than he did last fall when COVID prevented many colleges from competing. Then, it was a field filled with college players along with the usual mix of top juniors and mid-amateurs. But with colleges not only back in action, but playing a heavier spring schedule than usual, the college element was largely missing.

Gallegos stayed around the lead throughout the first three rounds, and entered the final round one shot behind former Sam Houston State golfer Noah Steele of Canada.

Steele got off to a good start in what was a windy final round, picking up two shots in the first five holes and extending his lead to two. But Gallegos pulled even by the turn, and the two were still tied with five holes to play.

The key hole for Gallegos was the short-but-tricky par-4 14th. Gallegos hit his approach over the elevated green, and looked to lose a shot and give the lead back to Steele. Instead, he chipped in for birdie and took a lead he would never relinquish. He would par in while Steele would drop shots at the 16th and 17th, giving Gallegos a three-shot winning margin.

With the win, Gallegos becomes the second straight Argentenian to win the Azalea, following TCU sophomore Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira.

Related: Fernandez de Oliveira rebounds to win Azalea Invite in playoff

“This is wonderful, and I’m happy to get my first win in the United States,” Gallegos said through an interpreter to Tommy Braswell for the Post and Courier.

Gallegos finished 72 holes in 6-under 278. Steele was 3 under, and South Carolina Amateur champion Jonathan Griz (Hilton Head Island, S.C.) was the only other in red figures at 1 under.

Former Cleveland State player Andrew Bailey (Cleveland , Ohio) was the low mid-amateur, finishing fourth at even par. Another mid-am, Joseph Deraney (Tupelo, Miss.) joined UC-Davis freshman Lucas Carper (San Jose, Calif.) and Duke commit Luke Sample (New York, N.Y.) in a tie for fifth at 2 over.

Results: Azalea Invitational
1ArgentinaAbel GallegosArgentina50068-72-70-68=278
2CanadaNoah SteeleCanada40071-67-71-72=281
3SCJonathan GrizHilton Head Island, SC30067-71-73-72=283
4OHAndrew BaileyCleveland, OH30072-73-69-70=284
T5MSJoseph DeraneyBelden, MS30072-71-72-71=286

View full results for Azalea Invitational

ABOUT THE Azalea Invitational

72-hole stroke play championship with a 54-hole cut on a 1925 Seth Raynor design. Good mix of college players, juniors and mid amateurs. 7 spots available in a qualifier. Impressive list of past champions at this traditional event. Reigning USGA champs often use this tournament as a tune-up for the Masters.

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