Messi's World Cup victory in December (understandably) scored all the headlines, and Argentina's incredible run of sporting achievements got an addition on Sunday when Argentine Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira won the Latin America Amateur Championship to secure his place in the 2023 Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship.
Fernandez de Oliveira, the No. 34-ranked amateur in the world, shot a 67 in the final round on Sunday at Grand Preserve Golf Club in Puerto Rico to claim his first ever title at this event. A year ago, Fernandez de Oliveira narrowly missed a playoff that could have propelled him into the 2022 Masters. This year, he left no doubt, defeating Luis Carrera by four strokes and the rest of the field by at least six.
"I'm still very shocked. I think my life has changed," said Fernandez de Oliveira. "I'm looking forward to a great year. I'm going to take advantage of the three opportunities that I've been given for winning this event. So I'm very happy and I just want to enjoy every second of it."
Fernandez de Oliveira, who is finishing up his senior year at Arkansas, had a tremendous summer in 2022 following that close call at the previous Latin America Amateur Championship. He finished ninth at the NCAAs then second at the Western to Austin Greaser, who, coincidentally, played in the 2022 Masters himself after finishing second at the 2021 U.S. Amateur.
For Fernandez de Oliveira, heading to the three majors will be a point of pride not only for himself but also his nation, which has produced one Masters winner (Angel Cabrera) and could have produced another. In 1968, Argentine Roberto de Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard that kept him from an 18-hole Monday playoff at that year's Masters.
De Vicenzo did not come up empty in majors, though. He actually won an Open Championship at the same course -- Royal Liverpool -- that this year's event will be played. Fernandez de Oliveira can't wait to get over there after his appearances at Augusta and Los Angeles Country Club.
"Going back where Roberto [De Vicenzo] won in 1967, it's very special. I went there in 2016, and the minute I walked into the clubhouse, they asked me where I was from and I said 'Argentina', and they told me, 'okay, come with me'. They took me to the lunch room where they have portraits and everything about where when he won. I felt very proud."
Fernandez de Oliveira completely dominated the week in Puerto Rico. After opening 68-67, he completely lit the golf course on fire with a 63 on Saturday before sealing the event with his tidy 67 on Sunday. In all, he made 25 birdies and an eagle to get to 23 under for the week.
He is actually not the first Argentine to win this event. Abel Gallegos beat Aaron Terrazas back in 2020 by four strokes before the Masters that year was postponed until November. Other Latin America Amateur Championship winners include Aaron Jarvis (Cayman Islands), Toto Gana (Chile) and -- perhaps most famously, Joaquin Niemann (Chile), who nearly won the event twice.
Fernandez de Oliveira bumps the 2023 Masters field to 81 with his victory in Puerto Rico and will try to become the first player since Alvaro Ortiz did it in 2019 to make the cut at Augusta National in April.