Argentina´s Ela Anacona produced a dominant display to secure a superb 12-shot victory in the Women´s Amateur Latin America championship presented by The R&A and the ANNIKA Foundation at Pilar Golf.
To the delight of the home crowds, the 23-year-old closed her brilliant week with a final round of three-under-par 69 for a championship record winning total of 15-under 273. She even signed off with a birdie on the 18th before being hugged by her jubilant Argentine team-mates.
Over the Blue and White course at the venue north of Buenos Aires, Anacona finished well clear of runner-up Vanessa Gilly, 21, from Venezuela after her 72 for three-under 285. Argentina´s Maria Olivero, 49, dropped to third place after a closing 78 for a two-under total.
Making her third appearance in the championship after two top-15 finishes, Anacona becomes the second Argentinian to win the title after Valentina Rossi triumphed last year.
“I can´t believe I won by 12 shots,” said Anacona. “I was just trying to do my best and I´m so happy with the result. I was quite nervous last night and woke up at 6am but managed to get back to sleep. Once I was on the 2nd hole, I felt my focus was there. When I won, I just wanted to find my dad as he means so much to me and I couldn´t have done it without him.”
The University of Arkansas fifth year student will now play in three major championships after earning exemptions into the AIG Women´s Open, The Chevron Championship and The Amundi Evian Championship in 2024. Anacona, who received a victory video message from Annika Sorenstam, will also compete in The Women´s Amateur Championship next year.
Excitement for major chances
She added, “I´m so excited but I think right now I want to soak everything in. I guess tomorrow I will realise I´m going to play in three majors. It´s exciting to be able to prepare for them.
“I was on the 16th when I thought ´OK, I think I´m going to win this thing´ and then I remembered the AIG Women´s Open is in St Andrews next year. I´m so excited and can´t wait to play the Old Course.”
With a four-stroke lead overnight to compatriot Olivero, Anacona was in control but both her and her nearest challenger bogeyed the 1st in the windy conditions.
Anacona, who finished runner-up in the ANNIKA Invitational Latin America three years in a row from 2016, quickly regained her composure with immediate back-to-back birdies after strong approach play to stretch her advantage to six shots.
Olivero, the oldest competitor in the field and the winner of the Argentine Women´s Stroke Play for an 11th time last weekend, responded with a birdie on the 4th but a further dropped shot at the 5th and Anacona´s birdie at the short 8th took the lead to seven.
After finding trees at the 9th a double bogey from Anacona gave her rivals some hope, but she then made birdies at the 10th and 14th before further problems for Olivero saw her fade.
Gilly, who was fifth last year, recovered from opening bogeys to make birdies on the 6th, 7th and 13th and edge out Olivero for second spot. Agustina Gomez Cisterna (Chile) was the only other player under par on one-under.
Gilly said, “I´m happy with my game that I was able to put myself in a good position like last year. I came here to try and win but it´s golf and I still gave my all on every hole and learned a lot in the championship.”
“Ela is an amazing player, she has all the shots,” added Olivera. “I had an amazing week. If you had said to me at the start of the week, I will finish third, I would have said ´where do I sign?´ I will be back next year to have more fun. I am 50 next year!”
A field of 59 talented players representing 13 countries competed in the Women´s Amateur Latin America championship, staged at Pilar Golf for the third time.
The Women´s Amateur Latin America championship presented by The R&A and the ANNIKA Foundation follows the successful introduction of the Women´s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship by The R&A in 2018.
Its aim is to strengthen the pathway to the very highest levels of golf by providing a platform for the region´s best women´s amateur golfers to compete against each other, with 22 players in the field this week under the age of 18 and 37 players having previously competed in the championship.
Lima Golf Club in Peru will host the 2024 Women´s Amateur Latin America championship presented by The R&A and the ANNIKA Foundation from 21–24 November.