LAAC Developing More than Just Players

Playa del Carmen, MEXICO: Tomas Gana of Chile pictured during round two on the Latin America Amateur Championship at El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Course on January 17th, 2020. (Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC)

Over the past six years, the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) has become a highlight of the region’s golf calendar, the equivalent of a “major” for players from so many different countries.

But the players are not the only ones who feel that way.

For golf referees in South America, Central America and the Caribbean, the LAAC is a similar bright spot, as it represents one of the best opportunities for the officiating community to get together, work at a high-level event and talk shop.

“I think it’s great because we get to learn all the different ways to work and it is quite helpful,” Mexico’s Gina Mendoza said. “It’s lovely to see the people that we’ve met before and make new connections. You get a lot of feedback and you learn a lot from every tournament on how to deal with different situations.”

At this year’s LAAC, which is taking place at Mayakoba’s El Camaleon Golf Club, the officiating committee includes 15 referees from eight different Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico and Colombia. In addition, there are also six referees from the staff of the USGA and The R&A..

Over the course of the championship, the referees have dealt with more than 120 rulings, ranging from the basic to the complex. With El Camaleon’s unique layout – the jungle, the swampy mangrove and the seaside create different challenges for players on every hole – there has been no shortage of situations for the referees to handle.

“We have a team of referees from all over Latin America who come together at their own national championships, but to get everybody together in one country to referee is fantastic,” said Shona McRae, the assistant director of rules for The R&A. “We have a great team camaraderie. We’ve all learnt the rules together and every time we get together we share problems about the rules, and can learn from each other’s experiences. So, it’s a great coming together of minds.”

There is, of course, also the community element that makes refereeing at the LAAC appealing. Puerto Rico’s Francisco Rivera, assistant director of rules for the USGA, said this is an event he is excited to work at each year because of the connections he makes – and maintains – with officials from other countries.

“It brings basically the entire region – ideas, cultures, styles – together in one place,” Rivera said. “You see almost the same people every year, and our region is very close. It’s a good time to get together and it’s definitely growing the game, so it feels good to be a part of it.”