Argentina’s Mateo Fernández de Oliveira arrives at the 2022 Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) as the top-ranked Latin American in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (No. 43) and celebrating his victory last week at the 2022 South American Amateur Championship.
“It’s been a lot of fun and we had a good duel with Segundo. I’m very happy to do this before the LAAC,” Fernandez de Oliveira said after defeating fellow Argentine and his University of Arkansas teammate Segundo Oliva Pinto by two strokes.
It is the just the latest in a series of strong finishes for the highest-ranked player in the field, who also earned his first individual collegiate win and was part of the winning Argentine team in the South America Amateur Team Championship (Copa Andes) last fall.
“I’ve increased my consistency in all areas of the game. I’ve gained confidence and I feel comfortable on the course. It’s a chain of good feelings that has favored my game and has generated good results,” said Mateo, who attributes much of his improvement to being part of the golf team at the University of Arkansas.
Mateo, the 2021 winner of the Jackson T. Stephens Cup, is part of a majority Latin college team including fellow Argentines Manuel Lozada and Segundo Oliva Pinto, Colombia’s Juan Camilo Vesga and Peru’s Julián Pericó, all of whom are among the favorites this week.
“It’s like forming a country with three different countries,” Fernandez said of his close relationship with his teammates, most of whom have finished in top positions at the South American Amateur Championship. “It really helps us having people like that on the team and supporting each other to do better.”
The great results of Fernández with his college team, which has started the season with a victory, a runner-up and a third-place finish, along with his remarkable performance in major international amateur tournaments (he reached the Round of 32 at the 2021 U.S. Amateur), have not gone unnoticed.
“The guys studying in the United States have had very good careers, they are sharp, and they are competing against the best in the world. Mateo has a huge chance of winning the LAAC,” said Argentine Jorge Fernandez Valdes, recent winner of his country’s VISA Open and the ensuing invitation to The 150th Open.
The 2022 LAAC winner will join Jorge Fernandez in Scotland, and will receive an invitation to the Masters Tournament and entry into final qualifying for the U.S. Open Championship. “It’s a luxury to play for two invitations to the majors,” said Fernandez, who plans to “use things that went wrong in the past to my advantage” at Casa de Campo.
The new champion of the South American Amateur is playing his fourth LAAC. He has previously he finished T19 in both Chile (2018) and Mexico (2020). In the previous edition at Casa de Campo in 2019, the Argentine golfer finished T32. This time he is coming to the LAAC among the favorites.
“His strong point is his mind because he is very consistent and he always puts a fight,” said Ela Anacona, Fernandez’s girlfriend and an Argentine golfer who is part of the Arkansas women’s golf team.
Ela and Mateo have known each other since 2014 and have won several tournaments together representing Argentina. “We share a lot and had a great time,” said Fernandez, who regularly plays for ice cream against Ela.
“The truth is that lately I had to buy ice cream more often. Fernandez is playing much better,” said Anacona, who is hoping to celebrate a Fernandez victory at the 2022 Latin America Amateur Championship and make the trip with him to Augusta National and St Andrews.