By Jaime Diaz
Following the model of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which was started in 2009 to grow the game on the world's largest continent, the Masters Tournament, the R&A and the USGA have joined forces to form an amateur championship for Latin America, according to a source in a position to know.
Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, USGA executive director Mike Davis and R&A chief executive Peter Dawson were scheduled to hold a press conference in Buenos Aires Jan. 22 that, according to a press release in Spanish from an Argentine agency, will "announce an initiative for the development of the game in Latin America."
According to the source, the new event will be played in January 2015.
(Left, a new amateur event in Latin America would help develop stars to follow in the path of Argentina's Angel Cabrera)
The winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur gets an exemption into the Masters -- Tianlang Guan was the qualifier last year, drawing worldwide attention by making the cut at Augusta National as a 14-year-old despite receiving a controversial penalty for slow play -- as well as the qualification event for the British Open. While the USGA is not one of the organizers of the Asia-Pacific event, its involvement in the Latin American tournament likely means the winner would gain entrance into the final stage of U.S. Open qualifying.
The announcement in Argentina is the latest in a series of initiatives by Augusta National GC to grow the game, following the Asia-Pacific and the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship for junior golfers that will hold its first final on the Sunday before this year's Masters.
The timing would seem right for an important tournament in South America, which has a richer tradition of top players -- most of whom have come from the caddie ranks -- than Asia. Two years ago the PGA Tour Latinoamerica was founded, and in 2016 golf will be played in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.