Chaplet wins Latin America Amateur, berth in Masters field
The latest qualifier for the Masters Tournament hasn’t reached college age yet and took up the game after tagging along to watch his sister take a lesson.
Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica won the Latin America Amateur Championship in La Romana, Dominican Republic on Sunday. The 16-year-old fired a final round of 2-under-par 70 to edge Jorge Garcia of Venezuala by one shot.
With the victory, Chaplet earned invitations to this year’s Masters, U.S. Amateur, British Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur. He and Garcia are also exempt into final qualifying for the U.S. Open and British Open.
“It’s really a dream come true, especially at my age, where most kids would be looking at the Masters,” Chaplet said Sunday via teleconference. “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s all you can dream of, really.”
Chaplet entered the final three holes at the Casa De Campo’s Teeth of the Dog course trying to stay at 4-under par for the tournament, and he said he was focusing on that rather than an invitation to Augusta National Golf Club.
“I will be honest with you, I was not thinking about that,” Chaplet said. “I was actually thinking about shooting 4-under par, and made a bogey (on 16). Then I tried to make birdie on 17 and 18. At the end, I looked up at the leaderboard and it was 2 under and (Garcia) had to make a putt, and it was just really a great moment.”
Alejandro Tosti, Luis Fernando Barco and Joaquin Niemann all tied for third, two shots behind Chaplet. Gaston Bertinotti held the 54-hole lead, but stumbled to 77 in the final round and tied for sixth.
Chaplet will be the second youngest Masters participant behind only Guan Tianlang, who was 14 when he made his Masters debut in 2013. The Chinese teen went on to make the cut that year.
“Well, I saw him play when he went to the Masters,” Chaplet said of Tianlang. “I saw how he played, and he played really well. So that means that there is a possibility to play very well, even if you’ve never played in a PGA Tour event or you’ve never played with professional golfers.
“So, I think there might be a chance that I can do something good when I play there.”
Chaplet said he took up the game when he was 10 in a roundabout way.
“My mother once bought a golf lesson for my sister, and I went to that lesson not knowing what golf was, and the coach told me, you want to hit a golf ball, and I said yes,” he said. “And from that day on, it kind of grasped.”
Besides getting ready for his Masters debut, Chaplet said he has yet to choose a college. San Diego State, Arizona, Minnesota and Sam Houston State are the ones he’s looking at currently. Those options might expand after posting the biggest win of his career.
“I wasn’t expecting to win,” Chaplet said. “I was just trying to, well, I was expecting to shoot under par, which is my main goal, so that was accomplished. And with that, came the win, so I can’t really ask for much more.”
The Latin America Amateur was created to promote golf throughout South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. It is put on by the Masters Tournament, the R&A and the U.S. Golf Association.