Abel Gallegos hails from Veinticinco De Mayo, a small town in Argentina that is home to just 25,000 people and one golf course, a nine-hole track named Las Mulitas, or Little Mules.
While Gallegos learned the game there, there’s nothing little about him. The 17-year-old stands 6 feet, 3 inches, and possesses incredible power, including a 125-plus mph clubhead speed.
“He’s a great project of a player with enormous power,” said Mark Lawrie, the R&A’s director for Latin American and the Caribbean who formerly served as the longtime executive director of the Argentina Golf Federation.
On Sunday, the teenage Gallegos accomplished something immeasurable.
Since the first Latin America Amateur Championship was held at Pilar Golf in Buenos Aires in 2015, no Argentine had won the tournament that has quickly grown into one of the most prestigious amateur events in the world. But Gallegos, one of eight representing Argentina in this year’s edition, changed that by overcoming a two-shot deficit and firing a final-round, 4-under 67 to win by four shots over Mexico’s Aaron Terrazas.
¡Abel Gallegos (Argentina) es el campeón del Latin America Amateur Championship 2020!— LAAC (@LAAC_Golf) January 19, 2020
Abel Gallegos of Argentina is the 2020 Latin America Amateur Champion! pic.twitter.com/wybuxhiV7W
“It’s an incredible moment,” Gallegos said through a translator before receiving his trophy. “I dedicate this win to all of Argentina; they’re always backing me. And it’s just for them.”
Gallegos, playing in his first LAAC, battled nerves Saturday night, waking up several times during the night in anticipation of Sunday’s final round at El Camaleon Golf Club in Playa del Carmen, where the PGA Tour hosts its annual Mayakoba Classic and also where Gallegos would be paired with Colombians Jose Vega, the leader, and Ivan Camilo Ramirez. Those tensions carried over with a poor opening tee shot, but Gallegos dug deep and saved par, setting the stage for final round that included just one bogey and five birdies.
While Vega struggled with a closing 74 to end up solo third at 1 over, Gallegos birdied Nos. 3, 5 and 7 to take the lead for good and later drained a closing birdie for good measure at No. 18 to finish as the only player under par, at 4 under.
For a player whose biggest achievement prior to Sunday had been receiving Argentina’s junior-player-of-the-year award in 2019, Gallegos collected some serious spoils by winning the LAAC, most notably a pair of major-championship invites – the Masters and The Open, which will be played this summer at Royal St. George’s.
“It’s incredible,” Gallegos said. “I think I’m in a dream.”