Mexico Open at Vidanta

Vidanta Vallarta

The Loop

To prepare for the Masters, one participant is taking a working vacation in Chile

The benefits to Matias Dominguez of playing in next week's Chile Classic made the trip too worthwhile for the Texas Tech senior to pass on the sponsor's invitation into the Tour event.

It will be the first time the 22-year-old Chile native has been to his hometown of Santiago since winning the inaugural Latin America Amateur in January -- and earning a invitation to this year's Masters -- allowing him to have a belated celebration with friends and family. It also provides an invaluable chance to get comfortable playing in a professional tournament before competes next month at Augusta National.

"The whole purpose is to try to get used to the environment," Dominguez said in a phone interview on Thursday. "I think I can learn a lot from the experience and get used to playing [with professionals]."


Dominguez returns home a golf hero of sorts. He will be just the second Chilean to play in the Masters -- Enrique Orellana missed the cut in 1964. In the short time since winning the Latin America Amateur, Dominguez says he's already sensed the victory has had an impact on junior golfers in his country.

"You kind of realize how big this is for other people," Dominguez said. "You can see all the young players, how they're excited to go play. You can see young players are seeking the same goals that I had, it's pretty special."

"The continued overall growth of the game and the further success of Chilean professionals is a key objective of the Chile Classic," noted tournament director Alejandro Peric. "It is a fabulous occasion for Matias and the game of golf in Chile."

Dominguez says he has no expectations when he tees it up at Club de Golf Mapocho. In his four college starts since winning the Latin American Amateur, he has post two top-20 finishes, including a T-18 at this week's Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship. His Red Raiders' team is 19th in the Bushnell Golfweek men's coaches' poll.

The return home also allows Dominguez to connect with those close to him to begin laying out plans for his future. While finished with his college eligibility at the end of his spring, Dominguez has one more semester of school work before graduating with a Arts & Science degree. He has exemptions into June's British Amateur and August's U.S. Amateur, and also can play in final qualifying for the U.S. and British Opens in June as long as he remains an amateur. His intention is to turn pro, but when remains unclear.

Of more immediate importance, however, is preparing for the Masters. Dominguez visited Augusta National with his college coaches two weekends ago, playing 45 holes in cool weather conditions. The trip confirmed his suspicion that he'll need to elevate the low ball flight he has gotten used to playing in the Texas wind if he wants to succeed.

Add one more thing on his to-do list for next week in Chile.

Photo: Courtesy of Latin America Amateur Championship