Q&A: TLA commissioner Lavie’s outlook for 2011

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Henrique Lavie

Big things are in store for the Tour de Las Americas.

At least, that’s the forecast, beginning in 2011, according to Henrique Lavie. The former golf pro turned commissioner has guided the TLA since 1998 and serves simultaneously as chairman of the PGA of the Americas, the parent entity of the TLA.

For the first time in its 19-year history, a handful of TLA-organized events have the potential to receive Official World Golf Ranking Points next year. Until now, only events co-sanctioned with other tours, such as the Canadian Tour and European Challenge Tour, were eligible.

Lavie’s tour stands to benefit even more, considering the additional exposure it’ll receive as the world readies for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Furthermore, on-going discussions about evolving the TLA into a feeder circuit for the Nationwide Tour holds promise.

Lavie recently spoke with Golf360 about the tour’s future.

Fabian Gomez, a former TLA tour member, just got promoted to the PGA Tour via the Nationwide Tour. What does his success mean for the TLA? Who else should we be watching to move up?

Lavie: The success of Fabian Gomez is almost a direct credit to the TLA. He started his tour career in the TLA, and we offered him the opportunity to grow fast in his career. We proudly take some of the credit for his success, and this will be a great example to other Latin America players who will be encouraged to follow Fabian’s path to the PGA Tour.

We recommend to watch Jonathan Vegas from Venezuela, even though he (didn’t start on) the TLA, we have a lot of sympathy for him, and we think he and Fabian will be a great couple of (players) on the big tour.

What’s your reaction to the Nationwide Tour reducing the number of TLA exemptions into its tournaments in the region? What does this mean for the TLA?

This certainly doesn’t feel any good. These spots have been a great opportunity for our top players. . . This definitely affects the benefits our players obtain through our tour.

The Nationwide Tour mentioned to us they will use these spots to promote local golf through the tournament promoters. We respect the decision, even though we don’t share the same vision as we consider these spots more valuable when they are used through the (TLA).

This means a lot to the TLA, considering the Bogota Open and Mexico Open were TLA events not too long ago, and they did step up becoming part of the Nationwide, and we only expected more and better opportunities for our players in exchange.

Are you planning to do anything about it?

The PGA Tour is independent in its decisions. We already wrote a formal letter to the PGA Tour authorities expressing our (disagreement). But we respect its decisions and reasons (behind it).

We have a strong (relationship) with the PGA Tour, and we are working together to develop golf in the Latin America region and . . . (gain) better achievements soon with its support.

Regarding Official World Golf Ranking granting ranking points to some TLA events next year, how is that process developing?

We have a full hand of events with a lot of opportunities to achieve OWGR. We announced a series of five events in Colombia (co-sanctioned with the) Canadian Tour that automatically will have OWGR . . . but they are full events under the TLA operation and control.

We will also have another series of (independent TLA) events that will have a good chance to pass the test to reach OWGR: Peru Open, Argentina Open, Torneo de Maestros, Abierto de Antioquia, Brazil Open and some others. We may be in a position to achieve 8-10 events with OWGR.

What is the TLA doing well?

We will maintain leaving our ego and financial priorities aside. We are very proud of our work as we strongly believe in what we do for our region in golf.

How can the TLA improve its operations?

What we can do better is reach (out more with a stronger) sales task force (and have) more agreements with strong sponsors as we had in the past like American Express or Lucent Technologies as title sponsors of the tour. That will give us a very important stability to work more comfortably and be able to achieve bigger and better events.

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