The result of a collaboration between the PGA TOUR, Tour de Las Americas, National Golf Federations, promoters and host clubs throughout Latin America, the tour will host events in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico among other countries, and hopes to expand to 14 events by 2013.
"This expansion into Latin America, when combined with what the Nationwide Tour has been able to accomplish in the region in recent years,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “Is part of the natural progression for golf which continues to grow globally.”
Finchem cited Brazil hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics – which will includes golf's return to the games for the first time in more than 100 years – and that Latin America has already produced several PGA TOUR stars including Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, Brazil’s Alexandre Rocha and Colombia’s Camilo Villegas as reasons for launching the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica.
The Latin American tour will also help players from the region develop their talent so that one day they could compete on the professional PGA TOUR.
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“PGA TOUR Latinoamerica will afford players in the region a chance to improve and advance to one of the highest levels of professional golf, the Nationwide Tour, which could in turn lead to players earning their PGA TOUR cards,” said Henrique Lavie, the commissioner of the Tour de las Americas. “This potential pathway to the higher levels of professional golf is something that is an improvement for the players in the region.”
All PGA TOUR Latinoamerica events will be 72-hole stroke play tournaments consisting of fields of up to 144 players and the top money earners will be granted access to the PGA TOUR's Nationwide Tour the following year. The tour’s chief of operations, Jack Warfield, has over 20 years of experience in the operation of international golf events including the World Cup and the Presidents Cup.
"I'm excited to lead the PGA TOUR's further expansion into Latin America," Warfield said. "The players in the region will have the opportunity to play a guaranteed, consistent schedule with multi-year commitments, which will help prepare them for the higher levels of professional golf and will serve as a pathway to the Nationwide Tour and PGA TOUR."
With the expansion into Latin America, the PGA is following in the footsteps of other sports, such as baseball and basketball, which have attempted to widen their player and audience base beyond the United States.
PGA TOUR Latinoamerica will afford players in the region a chance to improve and advance to one of the highest levels of professional golf.
- Henrique Lavie, the commissioner of the Tour de las Americas
Baseball has been a ubiquitous presence in the region for decades, especially in the Caribbean nations of Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Thanks in part to a global push by NBA Commissioner David Stern, basketball has become a popular sport in Latin America with player’s like Argentina’s Manu Ginóbili and Brazil’s Anderson Varejão becoming household names in the U.S.
The PGA hopes with its expansion in Latin America to draw on this growing fan base along with developing talent who could one day play in the professional tour.
"Over the past decade, professional golf in Latin America has been served dutifully by many key partners in the region," said Finchem. "The TLA, the national federations, promoters and private clubs of Mexico, South America and the Caribbean who have carried the torch for golf in the region will now work in collaboration under the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica banner to take the next step for player development in the region.”
Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.