Opportunity never really knocks.It begins as a window in one’s mind. For years, Mark Lawrie, the executive director of the Argentine Golf Association, dreamed of a day when the PGA Tour would realize the potential for golf in Latin America.
“I always said one day the big bear in the north is going to wake up and say, ‘There’s good golf being played here.’ That’s finally happened,” Lawrie said.
The third season of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica kicked off Feb. 20 at the Arturo Calle Colombian Open, the first of 16 tournaments in 10 countries. Jack Warfield, the tour’s president, has his eye on Venezuela and can imagine a day when the tour will visit Cuba.
For the players, the potential to graduate to the Web.com Tour by finishing among the top 5 money winners is irresistible. In the past, Latin America’s best made the leap forward to Europe. Now, success at home can be a steppingstone to the United States.
“It’s changing the axis of golf for this region,” Lawrie said. “Now, we look north.”
Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” It whispers to Sebastian MacLean to hit another bucket of balls so that his dream to become the first Bolivian to play the PGA Tour can come true. Last season, the 24-year-old MacLean, who played collegiately at Xavier, tasted what the big-time looks like. He finished ahead of David Duval, his childhood favorite after whom he named one of his puppies, at the Puerto Rico Classic and compared his game to Angel Cabrera’s at the Argentine Open.
“It’s not every day you get to warm up next to a major champion,” MacLean said.
Miguel Angel Carballo, 34, wished a pathway to the Tour existed when he was cutting his teeth on the Tour de las Americas (now the PGA Tour Latinoamerica). He blazed his own trail, taking advantage of a spot in the 2007 Movistar Panama Championship.
“I had one shot,” Carballo said.“The door was only open a crack when I was coming up.”
Carballo squeezed through by winning the event, the first Argentine victory on the Web.com Tour. A new world of possibility opened to him, and he made the PGA Tour in 2012.
For players on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, the door of opportunity has swung open. It’s up to them to enter.
Editor’s note: This feature first ran in Golfweek magazine that hit doorsteps on Feb. 28, 2014. If you’d like to subscribe, click here.