Previewing the 2022 Latin American Amateur Championship
A quintet of Razorbacks, a top-ranked entrepreneur and various talents across the region are ready to take a bite out of Teeth of the Dog
By Jordan Perez
The Latin America Amateur Championship makes a return to the international golf scene this week, revisiting Pete Dye’s greatest creation, Teeth of the Dog, in La Romana, Dominican Republican. Two years since its previous contest, a Masters berth and an exemption to the Open championship are on the line.
One player from among the 29 competing countries will have his dreams realized in a landscape worth fantasizing about. Teeth of the Dog features seven holes nestled along the Atlantic Ocean, with ever-present winds being the biggest challenge for this week’s field. This beauty can be a beast. Here’s our tip sheet for one of the amateur game’s most intriguing tournaments.
Perhaps a Razorback can take a bite out of Teeth of the Dog? Argentina’s Mateo Fernández de Oliveira, a junior at Arkansas, returns to the Casa de Campo resort with a game sharper than ever. The No. 38-ranked amateur player in the world headlines the field fresh off of a win at the South America Amateur, where de Oliveira (above) staved off Arkansas teammate and fellow countryman Segundo Oliva Pinto. He showed his fortitude by surviving a 65-hour travel disaster that de Oliveira says left him stuck in an airport for two days. Arriving right before his tee time, sans a practice round, de Oliveira still ground out the victory and afterward credited the teammate rivalry with helping push him to the next level.
“Transferring to Arkansas was a big part of everything,” says de Oliveria says, who had previously been at Texas Christian University. “We try to beat each other each time we go out to the course and I think that helps a lot.” By we he means his four other Arkansas teammates in the LAAC field: Oliva Pinto (No. 102 in the amateur rankings), Julian Perico (108), Juan Camilo Vesga (290) and Manuel Lozada (463). Head Coach Brad McMakin’s team is in serious contention for a national championship, coming off of what he says is “one of the best semesters I’ve ever coached” in his 16 years in Fayetteville. And they’re still peaking: Oliva Pinto finished just two shots behind de Oliveira at the South American Amateur, while Perico and Camilo Vesga notched top 10-finishes.
Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number
Omar Tejeira Jaen, 31, was the first Panamanian to play on PGA Tour Latinoamerica before a herniated disk derailed his professional career for two years. He sought amateur reinstatement in 2020 and now, in his first LAAC, is looking to add a title to the checklist of firsts.
“I feel really good,” says the No. 66-ranked amateur player in the world and one of the oldest competitors in the LAAC field. “I think with me and my team, we’ve pieced together a formula that works for me.” The formula produced six wins in 2021, all while Tejeira Jaen (above) balanced operating his own travel agency and served as vice president of a technology consulting company.
Paraguay’s Ezequiel Cabrera, 14, beams with pride when reminded that he’s the youngest player in the field. Golf is in his blood—uncle Carlos Franco is a four-time PGA Tour winner—but the boy wonder is carving out a path of his own. “My goal is to make the cut and be in the top 20,” Cabrera says. The teen has college golf aspirations but, for now, is simply enjoying the ride.
Who Let the Dogs Out?
Third-time competitor Andrey Borges Xavier’s inaugural LAAC took place at Teeth of the Dog in 2019, where he played its par-5s to 11-under and left with a top-5. The 20-year-old revisits the venue with great respect, even with four consecutive wins in 2021 supplying plenty of momentum. “You have to play with a lot of patience to look good,” Borges Xavier says.
Defending champion Abel Gallegos (below) of Argentina and Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet are more than familiar with the spoils of a LAAC victory and have waited two years for a chance to become the first multiple winner in the history of the championship. Chaplet has the unique opportunity to win at Casa de Campo for a second time, but even as a defending champ of sorts, he is wary of the damage the course can inflict. A fascinating event awaits. Chomp, chomp.