Lima, Peru (February 8, 2013) – Guatemala’s José Toledo led a group of twenty competitors who earned full exempt status to play the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s 2013 season on Friday. These twenty players claimed their cards at the Qualifying Tournament held at Lima’s Country Club La Planicie over the past four days.
The opening-round leader after a tournament-best 65 on Tuesday, Toledo opened his way back to the top by carding a birdie at the 72nd hole for a final-round 69. He finished at 10 under 278, one better than Argentina’s Franco Romero (67), Luciano Dodda (72), and Mexico’s Oscar Serna (74). The Mexican had taken a six-shot lead halfway through the qualifier, but slowed down over the final two days.
“I stayed very patient today. I made eight pars in a row early while hitting many good shots, but I knew there were many birdie chances on the back nine and made four of them," Toledo said. "I’m looking forward to the start of the season. My game is in great shape; I have been practicing very hard and I’m very happy about this week’s outcome.”
The 26-year old Toledo was a Web.com Tour conditional member last season.
Twenty players from nine different countries earned their cards. The twenty players who earned full cards to start the 2013 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season next month in Mexico represent the following countries: Argentina (8), Colombia (4), Spain (2), Guatemala (1), Mexico (1), USA (1), Canada (1), Chile (1) and Brazil (1).
Happy Birthday! Celebrating his 18th birthday on Friday, Argentina’s Franco Romero gave himself a very nice present: a final round of 5-under par 67 to move up into a tie for second. As the youngest player among those who qualified, Franco made four birdies and an eagle on 18 to shoot 31 (-6) on the back nine.
Low round of the day. The long-hitting Argentine Armando ‘Gato’ Zarlenga, 22, made one of the strongest moves of the day. He started the round in a tie for 28th, but carded nine birdies and three bogeys for a 66 that helped him reach into a tie for seventh. Zarlenga was a full member last season, but lost his card after finishing 62nd on the Order of Merit.
“The putter was key today. I didn’t really hit any great shots and I wasn’t hitting it close either, but the putter was working and it boosted my confidence," Zarlenga said.
Strong comeback and a hole-in-one. Colombia’s David Vanegas, 26, began the week posting an opening 75 for a share of the distant 59th spot, but then he found his rhythm to climb up the leaderboard the following three days to finish in a tie for seventh. His 69 today featured an ace at the par-three eighth. It was his first ace in a competitive round.
“I had 155 yards to the pin, so I hit a 9-iron. I was trying to hit the center of the green, but the wind carried the ball a couple of yards, it bounced once and then rolled a couple of yards into the cup,” Vanegas said.
Experience counts. At 49, Argentina’s César Monasterio, a former European Tour champion who has won several titles across the region, was the oldest player to earn the 2013 Tour card. Monasterio secured a piece of the seventh spot with a bogey-free 68.
All the way from Spain. Jacobo Pastor López, 24, was the only amateur to finish in the top 20. A native of Madrid, Pastor finished birdie-birdie for a 70 that locked the solo sixth. His countryman Manuel Quirós, 33, finished in a tie for 15th to make it two Spaniards on Tour.
Only American player to make it. Gunner Wiebe came from Scottsdale, Arizona to become the only American to finish among the leading twenty. He shot 71 today to finish fifth.
“I’m pretty excited about it. It looked like the round was going to get away from me, especially on the front side, so it was kind of nice to right the ship and to have a good finish," Wiebe said. I’m happy that I have somewhere to play this year, and if it’s anything like this tournament was run, it’s going to be a fantastic year for me. It’s definitely a new adventure, but it’s exciting."
Wiebe's father Mark has won twice on the PGA TOUR and three times on the Champions Tour.
Conditional Status. The other 22 players who made the top 40 will also have a chance to play on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica this 2013 season. All of them (ranked between the 21st and the 38th spot) have earned conditional status.
Second Qualifying Tournament next week. PGA TOUR Latinoamérica will have a second and final qualifier next week in Sebring, Fla. with twenty full exemptions set to be awarded as well. This following event will feature a field of 130 players from 25 countries, starting on Tuesday at the Sun N’ Lake Country Club’s Deer Run golf course.