Tour News

Great initiative for Latin American golf

(Photo: Japan Golf Tour)
Following the outstanding success of the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship over the past five years The Masters Tournament, The R&A and the United States Golf Association (USGA) have announced the formation of the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC), a new amateur golf event aimed at stimulating growth and inspiring even greater interest in the game throughout South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The inaugural competition will take place January 15-18, 2015, at Pilar Golf, a course opened in 1992 near Argentina's capital city that has hosted the Argentina Open twice (2006, 2011), among other national championships.

The Founding Partners "“ with cooperation from the Argentina Golf Association, the 2015 host golf association "“ will support all aspects in the organization and execution of the event.

The champion of the inaugural LAAC and all future winners of the event will receive an invitation to compete in the Masters Tournament, beginning in 2015. In addition, the winner and the runner(s)-up will be exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open Championship and U.S. Open Championship.

The champion will also receive full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible.

On three of the five occasions the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship has been held the winner of that event, Hideki Matsuyama (twice) and Guan Tianlang has gone on to make the cut at The Masters and both Matsuyama (once ) led the amateurs. Lee Chang-woo is the 5th winner of that title and he will tee it up at Augusta National in April this year.

In his rookie professional season in Japan this year, Matsuyama won four titles, easily led the money list and is currently ranked number 23 in the world.

"Supporting the game's continuous growth has been a responsibility taken very seriously throughout the 260-year history of The R&A," said Peter Dawson, The R&A's Chief Executive.

"Having been involved in this region of the world for many years, we understand the potential impact a championship of this stature can have on golfers with dreams of competing at the highest level. We are once again delighted to embark on such a worthwhile opportunity with both the Masters and the USGA."

Mike Davis, Executive Director of the USGA, added: "This new championship represents another wonderful opportunity in the partnership that we enjoy with the Masters and The R&A to advance the amateur game around the world. The USGA is committed to the long-term health and sustainability of the game, and by partnering together we believe we can positively impact this region of the world where golf is already growing."

"We believe this event will be motivating to current and future generations of golfers and, one day, create heroes that will inspire others to give the game a try," commented Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament.

"This belief has guided us well through the early successes of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and, with the collective expertise in guiding the game of golf provided by The R&A and the USGA, we are hopeful in achieving equally exciting results."

Invitations for the championship will be sent to the leading players from the 27 IOCrecognized countries and territories from this region that are current members of the International Golf Federation. Each country/territory will be automatically provided two positions, which will be filled by their highest-ranked players from the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) as of November 1, 2014.

Those countries are: Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

If there are only one or no players from a given country/territory in the WAGR, the national golf association will nominate one or two players accordingly, for approval by the LAAC Executive Committee.

The remainder of the field will be filled by taking the next highest ranked players from the WAGR with the maximum number of players allowed from a country/territory being six. The only exception is the host country which is allowed ten players.