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Posted March 07, 2019 03:03 pm
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Mexican amateur Alvaro Ortiz fulfills dream by earning invitation to Masters Tournament

  • Article Photos
    Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico pictured at the 2019 Latin America Amateur Championship at Casa de Campo Resort during the Final Round on January 20th, 2019. (Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC)
    Photos description

    Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico pictured at the 2019 Latin America Amateur Championship at Casa de Campo Resort during the Final Round on January 20th, 2019. (Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC)

  • Article Photos
    Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico pictured at the 2019 Latin America Amateur Championship at Casa de Campo Resort during the Final Round on January 20th, 2019. (Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC)
    Photos description

    Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico pictured at the 2019 Latin America Amateur Championship at Casa de Campo Resort during the Final Round on January 20th, 2019. (Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC)

Alvaro Ortiz once received an invitation to attend a practice round at the Masters Tournament, but declined.

“I didn’t want to go unless I could play,” the Mexican golfer said.

That won’t be a problem this year. As the winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship, Ortiz is one of six amateurs who will tee it up in the elite field at Augusta National Golf Club.

The tournament, put on by the Masters, R&A and USGA to boost golf in Latin American countries, was first played in 2015. Ortiz nearly won the event three times, finishing in the top three in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Growing up, Ortiz would talk with his brother Carlos, now on the PGA Tour, about playing in the Masters.

“Everybody talks about it, you know? Everybody thinks about driving down Magnolia Lane and going to the Masters,” he said. “You see Amen Corner, all the par-5s, the history, everything. Me and Carlos dreamed about this day. Hopefully, he’ll win and join me.”

After graduating from Arkansas last year, Ortiz wanted to turn professional. But his parents convinced him otherwise.

“They said there was no need to rush it, and to close out my amateur career,” Ortiz said. “I got invited to the Palmer Cup, and that was an incentive to stay amateur. Plan A was to play Q-school as an amateur and then turn pro. Gladly, it didn’t work out. I ended up missing second stage.

“As soon as I missed second stage, my first thought was, ‘This is my year. I’m going to win the Latin American and play in the Masters.’ ”

Ortiz held the lead through 54 holes at the Teeth of the Dog layout at Casa de Campo, but found himself trailing Luis Gagne midway through the final round.

“Walking on No. 9, I saw Luis’ lead and it was, ‘Oh, deja vu,’” Ortiz said. “That got me going on the back nine.”

Ortiz saved par at the ninth with a 10-foot putt, and that lit a spark. He eagled the par-3 12th after hitting a 3-wood from 240 yards out to set up a 25-foot eagle putt.

“As soon as I hit the putt I knew it was going in,” Ortiz said.

He followed up with a birdie at the 13th.

After seeing that Gagne made bogey on the short 17th, a drivable par-4, Ortiz elected to lay up. He hit his approach to tap-in range for another birdie, and closed with a birdie at the par-5 18th for a final-round 66 for a two-shot win.

He said a text from his swing coach helped him keep a positive outlook as he chased the prize that eluded him.

“One thing he said was ‘Be your best friend today,’” Ortiz said. “I kept positive. I kept telling myself good things.”

Now Ortiz will become the first player from Mexico to compete in the Masters since Victor Regalado in 1979. He is the second amateur from his country to compete, following Juan Antonio Estrada who played at Augusta from 1962-64.

“It’s a huge honor. This win is not for me,” Ortiz said. “It’s for the country. We golfers, we feel the sport is really growing in our country. This is a happy one for everyone. It’s huge.”