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Explosion of Latin golf in the American circuit

Michelangelo Barber

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Those years in which, due to the ferocious protectionism of the American Circuit, foreigners were hardly allowed to play in their tournaments are becoming more and more distant. And as a consequence, those who, due to their undoubted merits, were offered an invitation to do so, later suffered an emptiness from their colleagues that led them to suffer an ordeal on their journey. In fact, European stars such as Severiano Ballesteros had to listen to offensive phrases that they only traveled to the United States to take money from American golfers.

Today the mentality has changed. Thanks to the battles undertaken by the Cantabrian, which forced them to change the rules and accept the winners of the old continent on their own soil, the PGA Tour is a great multicultural conglomerate in which athletes from the five continents stand out.

And, among the existing groups, Hispanics emerge to a greater extent. With Spanish as the vehicular language, the group made up of Spaniards, Mexicans, Venezuelans, Chileans, Colombians or Argentines makes itself felt every week not only for his expressiveness and joy off the field, but also for his good results.

“Latinos form a great family and I noticed that a lot in Los Angeles last Sunday, their support was incredible,” commented Joaquín Niemann (23 years old) after his victory at the Genesis Open with Tiger Woods himself as an exceptional spectator. “We spend thirty weeks a year together and have as much fun as we can: we go out to dinner, we train together and we have a great relationship. That is why each victory of one of us is celebrated as if it were our own”, explained the Chilean. And he was right. The rest of the Spanish-speakers were waiting for him at the foot of the Riviera’s 18th hole to celebrate with him the group’s 41st victory on the circuit, the second of his personal account after the one achieved in 2019 (Greenbeer).

To the aforementioned Hispanic-American nationalities is added, of course, the Spanish. Under the mantle of Sergio García and Jon Rahm, the rest of his teammates are very comfortable. Especially when they see that they are treated as friends, that they share their desires and help them achieve them. In fact, the man from Castellón is the mentor of several of them by sharing an agent and preparation with Niemann and the Ortiz brothers, prominent figures from Jalisco.

For his part, the Basque has never denied his cultural origins. «I love speaking in Spanish and sharing my time with all of them. It is very nice to spend so many weeks traveling with people who have your same roots and customs, because it makes you feel at home, “said the number one in the world.

This explosion of ‘golf with ñ’ It is not accidental, far from it. After the historical times of the Argentine Roberto de Vicenzo (5 titles from 1957 to 1968) and the Puerto Rican Chi-Chi Rodríguez (8 between 1963 and 1979), the Austral Angel Cabrera could have made history if he did not lack continuity in his three successes this century (2007 to 2014); but his ability in the majors (he won the US Open and the Masters) was obscured by his bad head. And it had to be the Colombian Camilo Villegas (4 achievements between 2004 and 2010) who took the Latin American leadership in that first decade.

Talento individual

From then on, the joys fell under their own weight in a double way: individual talent and the support of the PGA Tour. Individual talent did not stop flourishing when it was needed and that led Jhonattan Vegas (37) to win three times between 2011 and 2017. And, although he is somewhat hesitant to admit it, to serve as an example for those who have been coming after . “I do not consider myself a model for the rest of my colleagues because I am a little older,” the Venezuelan told ABC, “because there are no leaders or anything like that here; maybe I stood out a little earlier and that could have inspired the younger ones, but I don’t feel more important. We are like a family, all the same.

Apart from that personal influence, the Circuit’s decision to create the PGA Tour Latin America was the decisive step for golfers from different American countries to reach the necessary level to compete at the highest level. From there the best would go on to the second division (Korn Ferry Tour) and the most gifted, such as the Chilean Mito Pereira, at first.

Although historically Argentina is the country with the most trophies (14), now it has given prominence to others. Since the Safeway Open of Emiliano Grillo in 2015, the albiazules have not stood out again and in recent years the most outstanding nations have been Mexico (Carlos Ortiz in Houston 20 and Abraham Ancer in Bridgestone 21); Colombia (Sebastián Muñoz in Sanderson 19) and Chile (Niemann in Greenbier 19 and Genesis 22). All this leads Ancer himself (30) to claim the multinational character of the group, far from belonging to certain flags. “I am quite happy and excited to be part of a group of players who are there making a lot of effort to put the name of Latin America on high,” he said. Obviously, the support between them is essential because the goal is common to all. “There are more and more of us who are trying little by little to grow the sport in our countries, but not as an obligation or a source of pressure; It’s just cause for joy.”

Precisely the victory of the Aztec last year in the Bridgestone World Cup was the most important of a Hispanic American since the Masters achieved by Cabrera a decade ago, which was a special pride for him. “Last season was a dream for me, both because I won on a field that I love and in an unforgettable week, and because I had just represented my country in the Olympic Games and I was full of motivation.”

That feeling of being in the skies is what was felt by the many fans who unfurled their banners last week on the legendary Pacific Palisades course. “There were multitudes of Latinos everywhere, I could feel them in every blow I gave. I was aware of their support and I saw them enjoying my game. I knew I had to win for them. It was a triumph for my entire country and the entire continent,” recalled Joaquín. The great family, more united than ever.

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