Higgs wins Order of Merit and Roberto De Vicenzo Award by $64
Four other PGA TOUR Latinoamérica players move to 2019 Web.com Tour
December 02, 2018
By Communications, PGATOURLA.COM
- December 02, 2018
- After Harry Higgs and Nicolás Echavarría, the third-, fourth- and fifth-place Order of Merit finishers were Michael Buttacavoli, Austin Smotherman and Marcelo Rozo. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
MIAMI, Florida—Harry Higgs had been chasing all year, and in the final event of the 2018 season Higgs finally caught the leader and took his place atop the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit. With his tie-for-fourth finish at the season-ending Latinoamérica Tour Championship – Shell Championship, Higgs overtook Nicolás Echavarría by $64 to win the Roberto De Vicenzo Award that goes to the Order of Merit winner. Higgs earned $101,336 in 2018 to Echavarría’s $101,272. Echavarría dropped to No. 2 in the standings by tying for 45th this week. Meanwhile, with his No. 1 final position, Higgs becomes fully exempt on the 2019 Web.com Tour, while Echavarría will be conditionally exempt next season.
Higgs, a native of Camden, New Jersey, who graduated from Southern Methodist University in his adopted hometown of Dallas, is in his second season on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. He also played in 2015.
After Higgs and Echavarría, the third-, fourth- and fifth-place Order of Merit finishers were American Michael Buttacavoli, American Austin Smotherman and Colombia’s Marcelo Rozo, respectively. The players received their membership cards during a ceremony following the final event of the season, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship – Shell Championship at Trump National Doral.
After earning his playing privileges by tying for second at the Tour’s U.S. Qualifying Tournament in Florida, Higgs began his year quickly, with a tie for third at the second event of the year, the 59th Abierto Mexicano de Golf in Tijuana. That was one of Higgs’ six top-five performances. Of those finishes, his first professional victory at the Diners Club Peru Open in October was the highlight.
“I did not know for sure that I had won [the Order of Merit]. But I walked off the 18th green with Matt Gilchrest. He’s the Tour mathematician, and he was pretty sure I had won. Then he caught me again and said he was as sure as sure could get that I had won,” Higgs explained. “Finishing No. 1 is everything. There’s no telling what next week (at the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament) would have brought. Now, if I want to play every Web.com Tour event next season, I can play every event. Of course, I still have to go out and play well, but if I do that, I can move to the PGA TOUR, which would then be the next step in my career.”
“Harry earned his way onto this Tour by finishing so well at Q-School, and he just continued that success all season. While he was solid through the first dozen tournaments, it was how he played over these final four or five weeks that has been telling and fun to watch,” said Jack Warfield, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica President. “A win, a third, a second and tie for fourth is tremendous golf regardless of where you’re playing. Harry saved his best golf of the season for last, and now he’s going to reap the benefits. I know I will be checking each week next year to see how he’s doing on the Web.com Tour.”
The players who finished the sixth-through-10th positions on the Order of Merit are exempt into the finals of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament in Chandler, Arizona. That tournament begins next week outside Phoenix (December 6-9). They are Andrés Gallegos (No. 6), Tyson Alexander (No. 7), Matt Gilchrest (No. 8), Eric Steger (No. 9) and Horacio León (No. 10).
The 2019 Web.com Tour season, the 30th in its history, starts in mid-January at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay (January 13-16) followed by The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club (January 20-23). Both tournaments will begin Sunday, with the final rounds finishing Wednesday.
Beginning in 2013, the Web.com Tour became The Path to the PGA TOUR by awarding all 50 membership cards to Web.com Tour players for the following PGA TOUR season. Players can initially qualify for the Web.com Tour through the Qualifying Tournament and by securing top-five Order of Merit finishes on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada and PGA TOUR Series-China. PGA TOUR Latinoamérica sent its first five players to the Web.com Tour following the 2012 season. They were Argentina’s Ariel Cañete, Clodomiro Carranza, Matías O’Curry and Tommy Cocha, along with Mexico’s Oscar Fraustro.
PGA TOUR Latinoamérica played its 100th event earlier this year and has had graduates move to the Web.com Tour from nine different countries—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain and the United States.
Final PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit Top 10
Earnings (U.S. $)
Harry Higgs (U.S.)
Nicolás Echavarría (Colombia)
Michael Buttacavoli (U.S.)
Austin Smotherman (U.S.)
Marcelo Rozo (Colombia)
Andrés Gallegos (Argentina)
Tyson Alexander (U.S.)
Matt Gilchrest (U.S.)
Eric Steger (U.S.)
Horacio León (Chile)
2019 Web.com Tour Members Via PGA TOUR Latinoamérica
Harry Higgs this Season
Higgs was plodding along all season, never lower than 19th on the Order of Merit after his tie for third early in the year at the 59th Abierto Mexicano de Golf. Yet he was unable to make a big move on the Order of Merit, his breakthrough tournament a long time in coming. That changed in late-October in Peru. After a tie for 10th the previous week in Chile revved up his play, Higgs posted four rounds in the 60s at Los Inkas Golf Club to win the Diners Club Peru Open by two shots. He kept that momentum going the rest of the season, finishing third at the Neuquen Argentina Classic, tying for second at the 113 Visa Open de Argentina and his tie for fourth this week at Trump National Doral—his final three starts of the campaign.
Nicolás Echavarría this Season
Echavarría had a dominant latter part of his season, when he recorded all six of his season-long top-10s in a seven-tournament span. He broke through in a big way in Brazil, winning the Sao Paulo Golf Club Championship, sinking a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to clinch the title. A month later, in Mexico, Echavarría won for a second time, at the San Luis Championship. At one point during the season, he had 21 consecutive par-or-better rounds and 13 consecutive under-par scores.
Michael Buttacavoli this Season
Buttacavoli only had three top-10 finishes in 2018, but two of those were victories—at the BMW Jamaica Classic and most recently at the Latinoamérica Tour Championship – Shell Championship. He joined Nicolás Echavarría as the only multiple-tournament winner in 2018. The four-time PGA TOUR Latinoamérica winner was a model of consistency all year, only missing two cuts, including eight in succession.
Austin Smotherman this Season
After finishing 2017 on a high note, with a tie for second at the season-ending Shell Championship, Smotherman continued his momentum early in the 2018 season when he captured the 59th Abierto Mexicano de Golf in Tijuana. Smotherman never shot worse than 66 in any of his four rounds, cruising to a four-shot triumph over Juan Pablo Hernández. He was the picture of consistency, never finishing worse than 25th in his next four starts. More top-10s followed in the season’s second half, with a pair of third-place finishes in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and San Luis Potosi, Mexico. He added two additional top-10s to close the year, and Smotherman joins former college teammate Harry Higgs in ‘Los Cinco’.
Marcelo Rozo this Season
Rozo came back to PGA TOUR Latinoamérica this season and ensured his return to the Web.com Tour with solid play all season. He only missed one cut, won his third career PGA TOUR Latinoamérica title and added five additional top-10s. His win at the 65th JHSF Aberto do Brasil outside São Paulo came 54 months after his last Tour triumph. He held on to the fifth and final spot by $2,162 over Andrés Gallegos.