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Latin America Amateur Championship Preview: Is it Fred Biondi's time?
Fred Biondi (University of Florida photo)
Fred Biondi (University of Florida photo)

As the highest-ranked player —18th in the current World Amateur Golf Ranking — in the 2023 Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) field and one of four runners-up in the previous edition in the Dominican Republic, Brazilian Fred Biondi is a clear candidate to lift the trophy at Grand Reserve Golf Club in Puerto Rico this Sunday.

“It was a lot of fun to have so many people supporting me till the end. It was very important for me maturity wise and it kind of opened my eyes to something bigger,” said 22-year-old Biondi about his experience in 2022 and this new chance to collect the rewards associated with a victory at the LAAC.

One year after his runner-up finish at Casa de Campo, Biondi aspires to follow the example of Mexican Alvaro Ortiz and Chilean Joaquin Niemann, winners in 2019 and 2018, respectively, after finishing second in the previous edition. Like Ortiz and Niemann, Biondi could receive the invitation to the Masters Tournament and The 151st Open for the LAAC champion.

“It is funny, because the first day I teed it off at the LAAC in January of 2022 I was ranked about 300th in the world rankings, and six months later I was inside the top 20,” said Biondi, who earned his first collegiate win one month after and his second in April. Two months later, he became the first reigning LAAC champion or runner-up to qualify for the U.S. Open.

“It was awesome playing against the guys that I grew up watching on TV or playing video games with. It was just a great experience,” remembered Biondi about his first major appearance and U.S. Open at the Country Club, where he played practice rounds with fellow Florida Gator Billy Horschel.

“He has matured a lot on his understanding of how to practice and what makes him great,” said J.C. Deacon, Biondi’s coach at the University of Florida and a declared admirer of his “beautiful, really simple golf swing” and his “wonderful character.”

Deacon has enjoyed watching the evolution of the young Brazilian golfer over his four years with the Gators, where his teammates include two-time Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion Yuxin Lin. “Fred’s round of 67 at the NCAA national championship with some of the hardest conditions is one of the best rounds I have seen in my 35 years in golf,” said Deacon.

“My game has been pretty solid, but the main things for me are to keep it more consistent, get control of the emotional and physical part, and have a better understanding of the short game,” said Biondi, going through the aspects of the game he has been working on to prepare for his fifth LAAC.

According to Coach Deacon, a big factor for Fred will be managing the expectations: “He has become one of the best players in South America and there are expectations for himself and everyone else around him. It is a new natural thing for him to deal with, but off the course he’s just always smiling and grateful for everything”.

To his credit, Biondi has recognized and analyzed the challenge of expectations and how they have affected him in the past: “There are two scales, expectations, and confidence, and if there is any gap between them, then you face worry and doubt. I think that’s the worst thing that could possibly happen”.

Biondi’s solution is to “try to be a great person off the course and the best golfer I can on the course,” confident that he has a real chance to win the 2023 Latin America Amateur Championship and become the first Brazilian to compete at the Masters in almost half a century.

Courtesy of LAAC.com

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The Grand Reserve Golf Club of Puerto Rico first-time host
The Grand Reserve Golf Club of Puerto Rico, designed by Tom Kite and opened in 2006, will host the LAAC for the first time, however, it's no stranger to holding major competitions.

Just last year, Grand Reserve hosted the 7th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, marking the first time a USGA championship was contested outside the mainland in a U.S. territory and is best known for annually hosting the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open.

The Grand Reserve stretches across a beachfront peninsula in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, just 15 miles outside the capital city of San Juan. Overlooking El Yunque National Forest, the club includes four distinct nine-hole layouts featuring the sea, mangroves, lakes and mountains of the scenic property on Puerto Rico’s northeast coast.

The Championship Course is a blend of those layouts which covers the four landscapes - from tees with views of the sea to greens overlooking the El Yunque rainforest and surrounding lagoons.

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What's at Stake
The champion receives an invitation to compete in the 2023 Masters Tournament and an exemption into The 151st Open. The winner also receives full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible and is exempt into the final stage of qualifying for the 2023 U.S. Open Championship. The runner(s)-up will be exempt into Final Qualifying for The 151st Open and the 2023 U.S. Open Championship.

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Tee Times and Pairings

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How to Watch
The high-definition broadcast includes three hours of live coverage on each of the four competition days. ESPN will provide event coverage in Puerto Rico, as well as throughout Latin America. Other broadcasters include Fox Sports (Australia), TSN (Canada), Warner Bros. Discovery Sports (throughout Europe), SBS Golf (Korea), SpoTV (Southeast Asia), SuperSport (Southern Africa), Sky Sports (United Kingdom) and ESPN2/ESPNEWS (United States). All of the coverage will also be streamed live on LAACGolf.com.

The broadcast’s English-speaking commentary team features Rich Lerner as host, Andy North as analyst, Iona Stephen and Colt Knost as on-course reporters and John Sutcliffe handling interviews.

Broadcast Schedule

First Round • Thursday, Jan. 12
9 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET

Second Round • Friday, Jan. 13
9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Third Round • Saturday, Jan. 14
11 a.m. – 2 p.m. ET

Final Round • Sunday, Jan. 15
10 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET

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A Look Back at Last Year
Aaron Jarvis, who plays collegiately at UNLV, won the 2022 Latin America Amateur Championship with a birdie on the final hole at Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog course. A native of the Cayman Islands, Jarvis became the first player in history from his country to play in The Masters and Open Championship.

ABOUT THE Latin America Amateur

Founded by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the USGA, the LAAC was established to further develop amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The LAAC is a 72-hole stroke play event open to a field of 108 amateur players in Latin America, chosen by their respective national federations according to their World Amateur Golf Ranking. Past winners of the championship, as well as last year’s top-five finishers, are automatically entered into this year’s championship.

The LAAC champion annually receives an invitation to compete in the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, the U.S. Open and the British Open. The champion is also awarded full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, the US Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible.

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