PGA Tour Latinoamerica

Before calling it a year for 2019, the PGA Tour Latinoamerica statistics crew had one final task: To find whether there was any category that Augusto Nunez didn’t top? What’s left to say for a golfer who did just about everything? Start with the victories — two. He was the only multiple winner, breezing to the Banco del Pacifico Open in Ecuador in October, and then most. dramatically, the season-ending Shell Championship in December. Along the way Nunez topped the Order of Merit with $148,734; authored the largest margin of victory — six strokes, in the Pacifico Open; had the lowest scoring average (68.38); the most top-10 finishes (11); the most sub-par rounds, 64 (tied with Tom Whitney); most rounds in the 60s (41); most consecutive cuts made (15); total birdies (291); most consecutive rounds, par or better, 15 (tied with Ryan Ruffels).

Nunez had already piled up a big enough money lead so that in the season-ending Shell Championship, he merely had to play 72 holes to win the Player of the Year award. Instead, he ended up winning the Shell in a battle that would go down in tour history. Nunez shot Trump National Doral in 66-66-69-70 for a 13-under 271. Jared Wolfe dogged him score for score, except for a 67 in the second round — the one stroke by which Nunez won.

“It has not been easy for me to close tournaments in the past, and today I kept calm at key moments,” Nunez said. “It was an amazing week.” He also had an amazing week earlier, when he entered the final round of the Banco del Pacifico Open “thinking about tying my record” [25 under in the 2016 Flor de Cana Open]. He didn’t tie it, but he did get to 22 under and won by six, shooting the Quito Tennis and Golf Club in 68-67-64-67. And thus did Nunez take the tour’s fully exempt spot on the Korn Ferry Tour for 2020. Nos. 2-5 on the money list, all Americans, earned conditional exemptions.

No. 2: Tom Whitney, $86,860. In the Abierto OSDE del Centro in Argentina, Whitney came from behind and took the clubhouse lead, and on learning later he had won, said, “I like the sound of that.” Whitney shot Cordoba Golf Club in 73-67-66-64–270, 14 under, winning by one.

He had five other top-10 finishes, and was either No. 1 or 2 on the money list for 11 weeks. No. 3: Jared Wolfe, $83,250. Wolfe opened and closed 2019 with crackling performances. First, he ran away with the season-opening Buenaventura Classic in Panama by five strokes, shooting Buenaventura Golf Club in 66-68-71-70–275, 13 under. Opening the season with a win “is more than I could have asked for,” Wolfe said. Then in the season-ending Shell Championship, he dogged Nunez score-for-score — except for that one shot — and finished second. He also had five other top-10s.

No. 4: Evan Harmeling, $70,789. After a sluggish start, when a tie for 40th was his best finish in five events, Harmeling came to life at the BMW Jamaica Classic at Cinnamon Hill. He shot 66-66-64-71 for a 21-under 267 to edge Nunez by a stroke. “I never felt super comfortable out there,” Harmeling said. “It was nerve-racking, especially at the end.” He also had two other top-fives.

No. 5: John Somers, $69,099. Somers, a Latinoamerica rookie, took his first tour win in his third start in a spectacular finish at the Abierto de Chile. Somers trailed playing partner Alex Weiss by two starting the final round but was leading by one playing the Club de Golf Mapocho’s par-five 18th. Both reached in two. But Somers holed his 45-foot putt for an eagle and won by two when Weiss two-putted from 10 for a birdie. Somers shot 68-65-67-65–265, 19 under. Said Somers, who missed the cut in his first two starts: “I just wanted something to get me started. This is more than I could have asked for.” He also had three other top-10s.
There were two other remarkable finishes in 2019.

Argentina’s Puma Dominguez, 34, winless on the tour, was about to give up on 2019. In three starts, with a sore wrist, he’d missed two cuts and finished 40th. But with only three tournaments left, and with a sponsor’s exemption into the Neuquen Argentina Classic, he’d give it one last try. Then he birdied the final hole, forced a playoff, and beat Tom Whitney with a six-foot par putt on the first extra hole. He’d written a message to himself in his yardage book: “I am going to do it.”

In the VISA Open de Argentina, a sudden scream from the gallery at the third playoff hole cost American Brandon Matthews a chance to win the tournament and take the Open Championship invitation that went with it. Colombia’s Ricardo Celia had already holed a 30-footer for birdie, and Matthews had drawn back the putter for the eight-footer he needed to tie, then flinched at a scream and missed the putt. Instantly, Matthews was fuming silently. Then he learned that the scream had come from a spectator who had Down Syndrome and had lost control of his emotions. And now the man was distressed. “Take me to him,” Matthews said. And he hugged him and comforted him. “Some things,” Matthews said, “are bigger than golf.”


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