The International Golf Federation hopes that the sport’s return to the Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro will bring golf to the masses in South America.
The IGF doesn’t have to worry about Argentina.
When Fabian Gomez won the FedEx St. Jude Classic last year, he joined Roberto De Vicenzo, Angel Cabrera, Jose Coceres and Andres Romero as Argentines to win on the PGA Tour, and he will be back at TPC Southwind in Memphis to defend his title this week.
Gomez held his national flag during the celebration after his first victory on the circuit, and when he validated it by winning the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, it virtually guaranteed that he will wear Argentina’s colors in the Olympics when golf is played in the Games for the first time since 1904 in St. Louis.
“I’m really excited about being able to get in the Olympics,” said Gomez, who is expected to join Emiliano Grillo on the Argentine team. “I work hard to be able to win, but I know that by winning, I will be able to reach that.
“It depends on how things go with other players, but I feel like I will be almost there.”
The top two players in the World Rankings will represent each competing country, although four can qualify from the same nation if all are in the top 15. Last week Grillo was No. 44 and Gomez was No. 66, with no other players from Argentina in the top 200.
Gomez has won 15 times as a pro, mostly in South America, but he waited until he was 36 to win in his 70th event on the PGA Tour. He closed with a 4-under-par 66 at TPC Southwind to beat England’s Greg Owen by four strokes.
Afterward, he talked about what it meant to join De Vicenzo, Cabrera, Coceres and Romero as Argentine winners on the U.S. tour.
“That list for me is an honor, and we share many, many weeks with Andres, Angel,” Gomez said at the time through a translator. “When they play on the tour the same week with me, we share some barbecue. We had one last night, and I know that they are going to be happy for this situation right now. …
“I started as a caddy (in Resistencia) when I was 8 years old until I was 16 or 17. After that I moved to Buenos Aires. I lived close, right by the golf course. And even though I played soccer, I had sort of an attraction toward golf. And at some stage of life, 14, 15 years old, I saw I was pretty good at it, so I just kept going with that.
“That’s where I started practicing and turned pro, started playing in Argentina a little bit. And then that kept going to Latin America, and then from there I started getting better.
“And by the age of 25, I would come over here to play mini tours and then Q-School and then they called me to (the) Web.com (tour), and I kept going.”
Gomez, who was 23rd last week in the FedEx Cup standings, showed he was not a one-hit when he closed with an 8-under-par 62 in the Sony at Waialae Country Club. He then beat Brandt Snedeker with a long two-putt birdie on the second playoff hole.
After falling back with two consecutive bogeys late in his round, he rolled in birdie putts of 10 feet and 20 feet on the last two holes of regulation, and then won in the playoff with his 11th birdie of the day.
“I felt good all week long and was able to put on a great round today,” said Gomez, who collected seven straight birdies through the 12th hole. “I had Brandt Snedeker in front of me, (but) I got on a streak with seven putts in a row. And it makes me feel good and feel like I could win the tournament.
“I learned how to behave, be patient and all that kind of stuff. I actually learned playing with the other caddies. They would go out there and play for money. You have to learn no matter what, because you have to win (because money was scarce).”
And when Gomez wins these days, there is a lot more money.
–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre