In a truly exciting finish, Valentina Rossi conquered the second edition of the Women’s Amateur Latin America organised by The R&A and the ANNIKA Foundation at Pilar Golf, Buenos Aires. With a final round 69 (-3), the Argentine scored a total of 279 strokes (-9) to win by one over María José Marín (74 today), who had back-to-back runner-up finishes at the WALA.
“I still can’t believe it, I’m in shock,” said in tears the player from the Jockey Club in Rosario when she was reminded that she’ll be playing three majors in 2023. “I knew it was going to be a match-play situation with Majo and that’s exactly how it turned out to be. The three consecutive birdies in holes 6, 7, and 8 were important to shorten the difference and put some pressure on a great player,” explained Rossi, who started the last round trailing Majo by four. Rossi had experienced that match play situation: “Reaching the semi-finals of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur allowed me to perform well today.”
The weather forecast for Sunday called for tee times to be moved earlier and from both the first and tenth tees. Wind once again was a decisive factor, especially on the back nine holes where the difference in score was cut to one stroke after Rossi’s 33 and Marín’s 36. At the par-4, 12th hole, another bogey of the Colombian allowed the player from Michigan State University to take the lead for the very first time. She went on to birdie the par-5, 13th hole, to add another stroke to the lead only to give it back at the par-4, 15th, at Pilar Golf’s signature hole. Nevertheless, in fourteen holes Rossi was playing six strokes less that her opponent. Fantastic.
Valentina made par in the last three holes, including a clutch putt at the 18th while Annika Sörenstam and her family were watching. Rossi gave the host country its first victory. “It’s amazing that we can have this event in Latin America, a championship with so many prizes and with this level of organization. We (the players) are incredibly grateful to the R&A and the ANNIKA Foundation,” said Rossi. Then she added: “Hugging my family and Annika by the 18th green is something I’ll cherish forever.”
This year’s edition was another heartbreak for Marín, recently committed to the University of Arkansas. At the 2021 WALA she made three bogeys in the last seven holes to lose by one to her friend Valery Plata. That situation was lingering in her mind: “When Valentina shortened the difference to one stroke on the front nine, I couldn’t help but remember what had happened last year, wishing it wouldn’t happen again. Then I missed the birdie putt at the 18th, and it happened. In any case, I leave this championship with good feelings, and I’ll come back next year for a rematch,” said Majo, after shedding tears as Annika hugged her by the 18th green.
A new edition of the Women´s Amateur Latin America, a championship that changed the history of women’s golf in the region, has come to an end. Whether happy or sad, the game will always grant these girls a rematch. But what’s most important is that, for a week, the best players in the region enjoyed a true celebration, one that will become the turning point in the career of each one of them.