BUCARAMANGA, Colombia – Colombia’s own David Vanegas won the 67th Arturo Calle Colombian Open presented by Diners Club to become the first champion of the 2014 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season.
Entering the day holding a two-shot lead after a huge 61 on Saturday, Vanegas went on to post a 68 to extend his margin of victory to three shots and finished at 17-under 263. His triumph in the highlands of Bucaramanga was the third by a Colombian player on the Tour that has created a path to the Web.com Tour in Latin America.
Second place was shared by fellow Colombian Andrés Echavarría -- whose 7-under 63 was the low of the day -- and Kentucky’s Rick Cochran III, who carded a 69. Showing the strength of locals this week, Colombia’s José Manuel Garrido and Manuel Merizalde were two of five players who finished in a tie for fourth.
“This is very important to be there in the rankings. I think you have to be there right from the beginning,” Vanegas said after claiming the Order of Merit’s No. 1 spot thanks to a winner's check of $27,000. “I want to make the most of this. I’m going to keep practicing just as hard as I have been doing, continuing to believe in what I have been working on. I’m extremely happy!”
The 27-year-old had extended his lead to three shots halfway through his round, but a couple of bogeys on Nos. 10 and 12 suddenly dropped him into a three-way tie for the lead with Rick Cochran III and Daniel Mazziotta of the United States.
The 14th hole, a 412-yard par-four, proved crucial for him to escape again. Considering the headwind, he hit a half shot with the 52-degree wedge from 106 yards and his ball found the bottom of the cup for a saving eagle. The lead was all his for good.
“The eagle on the 14 was very important for me because it gave me life after making two bogeys. It was an incredible moment. The green is elevated, so I didn’t see the ball go in. The fans screaming and celebrating were the ones who saw it best. That got me in position for the rest of the day," said Vanegas, who closed the day with a bogey at 16 and a birdie on 17 for a comfortable three-shot win.
The tall and skinny young man from Medellin joined Manuel Villegas and Marcelo Rozo in a trio of Colombians that has won on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. Two of those wins coming in consecutive starts, as Rozo had won the 2013 season ending 108th VISA Open de Argentina last December in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
With Echavarría, Garrido and Merizalde making the top 4 this opening week, Vanegas also felt proud about the progress made by the Colombian pros on Tour. “We didn’t make much noise on the first year, but things are starting to come our way. The level of golf in Colombia is on the rise. We feel confident and we are doing things well. Hopefully, more Colombian players will have an opportunity to win on the Tour,” said the only of the Colombian champions on Tour who has been able to win at home.
Weather. Sunshine and clouds mixed. A high of 77 degrees. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.
This is his first win in 20 starts on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. Collects win at age 27 years, 2 months, 17 days. His previous PGA TOUR Latinoamérica best finish and only top 10 was runner-up at the 2013 season opening Abierto Mexicano de Golf. This is also his fourth career victory. Previous wins came at the 2010 Abierto Internacional de Golf II Copa Antioquia (Tour de las Americas/European Challenge Tour), the 2012 Abierto de Lagos de Caujaral and the 2013 Abierto Cafetero de Golf on the Colombian Tour. Vanegas is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, where he earned a business degree in 2008. He turned pro at the start of the 2009 season.
Lowest rounds of the day:
63 (-7) Andrés Echavarría, Colombia
64 (-6) Christian Espinoza, Chile; Jordan Russell, USA
65 (-5) Tyler Duncan, USA; Jorge Fernández Valdés, Argentina; Timothy O’Neal, USA; Tyler Duncan, USA
Bogey-free rounds today:
68 (-2) Armando Favela, México
65 (-5) Jorge Fernández Valdés, Argentina
OHL Round of the Week Award goes to Merizalde. Saturday’s round of 10-under 60, not only a week low, but also a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica 18-hole record, locked the OHL Round of the Week Award for Manuel Merizalde. The 34-year old from Cali secured the score with an eagle on 18. His bogey-free round also included birdies on 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13 and 16.
Next Event. The following event on the Tour’s 16-tournament schedule is the TransAmerican Power Products CRV Open to be played at the Las Lomas Club de Golf in Guadalajara, Mexico – March 17-23. That event is joining the Tour for the third straight year and its past champions Ariel Cañete (2012) and Manuel Villegas (2013) have finished among “Los Cinco” and are currently playing on the Web.com Tour.