Jeronimo Esteve wins Devil's Elbow Invitational (Photo: Erick Morales)
is the inaugural Devil’s Elbow Invitational champion at the Punta Cana Resort & Club in the Dominican Republic. With the victory, Esteve earned a spot in the PGA Tour’s 2022 Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.
Esteve’s performance during the three rounds was superb, finishing at 4 under; he was the only player under par for the event. An opening round 69 set the tone and put Esteve in the lead alone. That opening round 69 was the only one in the 60s all week.
Ryan Abbate hung tough with matching scores of 70 in his first two rounds, helping him grab a share of the lead with Esteve after two rounds.
“Ryan putted and chipped really well in that second round,” Esteve said of his opponent. “We had a great battle.”
While Esteve’s four shot victory looks large, a few big swings in the final round between Abbate and Esteve provided some drama. Back-to-back birdies on the seventh and eighth holes helped Esteve create a bit of a lead when Abbate made bogey on the seventh.
The biggest swing occurred on the thirteenth hole, Abbate missed a short birdie putt and Esteve managed to save par after a wayward drive.
“That was a big moment. It looked like a two shot swing was coming, it would have tied us up.”
A birdie on 14 for Esteve sealed the deal. Rounding out the top three was Jon Veneziano who shot the low score of the final round with a 70 to finish 3-over.
Esteve is very excited about the Devil's Elbow Invitational's future. The Devil's Elbow is the name for the 16th, 17th, and 18th holes at Corales. Hiram Silfa and Erick Morales were the brain trust behind getting the event off the ground. It was a long time coming, as Morales and Silfa had been trying to find a way to get a big Mid-Am event to the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico for a few years. Once it looked like it was going to be a reality, they enlisted help from Esteve.
With a PGA Tour exemption on the line, which Silfa helped facilitate, the course was set up to identify the best player. They played the same tees as the pros and the pins were set in locations similar to the final three rounds of the Corales event on the PGA Tour. The wind also played a factor, as it began whipping once the practice rounds were over.
“Guys thought they were going to tear the place up,” Esteve said. “But then the wind picked up and made it so much harder. It’s wide off the tee, but the course firmed up. Missing the green on the wrong side made it real tough.”
Esteve was enthusiastic about the entire experience at Punta Cana. The small field, which was beset by nearly 50 withdrawals for various reasons including COVID, passport issues, and scheduling conflicts, made the event rather intimate.
“It’s very family-friendly. We’d play in the morning and then spend time by the pool. Wives, girlfriends, and kids would hang out together. It was a great experience.” While the atmosphere felt like a golfing trip with buddies and their wives, it shifted when the rounds started to count.
“The morning of the first round I got to the range and saw guys grinding and I thought to myself, ‘This is a real tournament now,’” Esteve said with a chuckle.
Esteve has had a very solid 2021 on the golf course. He was medalist at the Crump Cup, reaching the final 16 in match play, and he won the Carlton Woods Invitational.
He has also played in two Puerto Rico Opens, so he’s feeling optimistic about his chances to have a good week with the pros next year.
“I think I could play well and make the cut. Maybe even scare a couple guys,” he said.
He is hopeful that Mid-Am players who want an event that is family-friendly but also offers a dream opportunity to play in a PGA Tour event will flock to Punta Cana next year and beyond for the Devil’s Elbow Invitational.
ABOUT THE Devil's Elbow Invitational
New in 2021, this 54-hole invitational stroke play event
for mid-amateurs will offer the winner a chance to play
in the PGA Tour event held at Punta Cana. The
tournament aims to draw an international field and
invitations may be requested on the tournament
website. Minimum age 25, maximum handicap 3.4.
View Complete Tournament Information