Masters, Latin America team up

Updated: January 22, 2014, 12:32 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

Using the blueprint from its successful launch of an amateur event in Asia, the Masters -- along with the R&A and the United States Golf Association -- announced a foray into Latin America on Wednesday that will reward the winner of an amateur tournament there with a spot at Augusta National.

The Latin America Amateur Championship will be played in January 2015 and will be open to amateur golfers from South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Much like the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship -- which led to 14-year-old Guan Tianlang of China becoming the youngest to compete in the year's first men's major -- the tournament will offer a place in the Masters field for its winner, as well as spots to the winner and runner-up in final qualifying for the Open Championship and U.S. Open.

[+] EnlargeBilly Payne
AP Photo/Morry GashMasters chairman Billy Payne hopes the new Latin America Amateur Championship will "create heroes that will inspire others to give the game a try."

The winner also will receive full exemptions into the British Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible. At this point, no exemptions are given to USGA events for the Asia-Pacific Amateur.

The announcement was made Wednesday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with Masters chairman Billy Payne, R&A CEO Peter Dawson and USGA executive director Mike Davis in attendance.

The first Latin America Amateur Championship will be Jan. 15-18, 2015, at Pilar Golf Club, a course outside of Buenos Aires that has twice hosted the Argentine Open. Players from 27 countries or territories in the region will be eligible.

"We believe this event will be motivating to current and future generations of golfers and, one day, create heroes that will inspire others to give the game a try," Payne said. "This belief has guided us well through the early successes of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, and with the collective expertise in guiding the game of golf provided by the R&A and the USGA, we are hopeful in achieving equally exciting results."

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship twice and proceeded to make the cut both times at the Masters as an amateur. He turned pro last year and has already climbed to 23rd in the world.

Guan sparked worldwide attention when he made the cut at last year's Masters. He went on to play in several PGA Tour events on sponsor exemptions later last year.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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