2023 FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
December 19, 2022 - USGA
The 2023 Latin America Amateur Championship features players with experience at the Masters Tournament, The Open, the U.S. Open and PGA Tour events. Included in the field are some of the top college golfers in the United States, 10 of the 11 top finishers from the last edition and several young rookies with remarkable junior careers.
With a champion from the Cayman Islands, and eight countries represented at the top of the 2022 leaderboard, the last edition of the LAAC signaled the depth of this coming year’s field in Puerto Rico. These are five players to watch at Grand Reserve Golf Club.
Fred Biondi, Brazil (World Amateur Golf Ranking – 18)
The 22-year-old University of Florida senior finished runner-up in the last edition at Casa de Campo, one back of champion Aaron Jarvis. Biondi 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.
“I think I’m definitively good enough to win and I just couldn’t get the job done. It comes back to that at the end of the day. But it was a pretty good finish, and I am just going to use this as motivation,” said Biondi after his final round at the 2022 LAAC.
Mateo Fernández de Oliveira, Argentina (WAGR – 35)
After starting 2022 with a win in the South American Amateur and a runner-up in his fourth LAAC, Fernández de Oliveira closed his junior season at the University of Arkansas with top-15 finishes in five of his last eight starts, earning All-America and All-SEC honors in the process.
“I gave myself a chance, which is the thing that I was looking for the whole week. So, I’m happy with that,” said the 22-year-old Argentinian at the conclusion of the 2022 LAAC.
Julián Périco, Peru (WAGR – 139)
The 23-year-old Peruvian is making his sixth LAAC appearance, with a record of three top-10 finishes and a best finish of T-4 in 2017 at Panamá Golf Club, where he scored the lowest opening round (64) in the history of the event. Last year, he led by three strokes after 36 holes and eventually finished T-9.
“I love the game of golf. I’ve always been trying to get better, and I am addicted to that process. I want to be the best golfer in my country. That’s what I’m striving for,” said Périco, who aspires to be the first Peruvian to play the Masters in more than six decades.
Omar Tejeira, Panama (WAGR – 166)
Tejeira is making his second LAAC appearance after finishing T-22 in the Dominican Republic. In 2022, the 32-year-old Panamanian won the Santa Maria Amateur Open and recorded four runner-up finishes in WAGR events. With a win at the LAAC in Puerto Rico, he would become the first golfer from Panamá to play a major.
“Combining work with golf, I think for me, personally, has been an enriching experience. I think I am 10 times the player I was as a professional,” said Tejeira, who regained his amateur status in 2020 after playing professionally for seven years.
Aaron Jarvis, Cayman Islands (WAGR – 301, Defending Champion)
When he won the 2022 LAAC, Jarvis went from being the No. 1,669 amateur in the world to becoming the first Caymanian to compete in both the Masters and The Open. He missed the cut at Augusta National but became the first LAAC champion to play the weekend at The Open when he made the cut at St Andrews.
“I was in a comfortable position because there wasn’t much pressure. I knew all the cameras were going to be with the other groups,” said Jarvis, who played in the third-to-last grouping, after his victory in Dominican Republic.
Next month, Jarvis will attempt to be the first two-time winner of the LAAC.