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Jhonattan Vegas

THE PLAYERS Championship features record Latino field

Jhonattan Vegas returns to THE PLAYERS Championship for 10th time

By now, it’s no longer surprising to see a Latino near the leaderboard at a PGA Tournament. Nonetheless, it’s important to celebrate each milestone, each victory, each step forward. Another positive step will be taken at the prestigious THE PLAYERS Championship this weekend.

Mexico will have two representatives, Abraham Ancer and Carlos Ortiz, going after the $20 million in prize money and $3.6 million winning purse. 

Chile will also have two representatives, Joaquín Niemann and Mito Pereira. Colombian Sebastián Muñoz, Argentine Emiliano Grillo and Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas will round out the field of Latinos.

Among that group, only Pereira is making his debut at THE PLAYERS Championship. The other six have competed at least once in the tournament that some nickname the “fifth major.”

“They’re awesome,” Niemann said of the Latinos on the PGA Tour last month. “All the Latinos, it makes our life easier, more fun, more entertainment. Obviously we play 30 weeks a year. And out of those 30 weeks a year you want to spend as much fun as you can. 

“We stay together, we play practice rounds together. We’re really unified all together and we have a great relationship.”

Chasing Lee Trevino at THE PLAYERS

No player from Latin America has won THE PLAYERS Championship, but a Latino has won it once. Mexican American Lee Trevino edged out the legendary Ben Crenshaw by one shot to win the tournament in 1980. Trevino finished second four years later, one shot behind Fred Couples. 

Vegas finished third in 2019 for the closest finish at THE PLAYERS Championship by a golfer from Latin America. Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who finished second in 2007 and 2015, won the Players’ Championship in 2008. 

Garcia, 42, has found great success at the TPC Sawgrass over his long career. He has at least one Top 10 finish in each of the three decades he has competed in THE PLAYERS Championship.

Joaquin Niemann of Chile checks his yardage book on the 18th green during the first round of THE 2021 PLAYERS Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 11, 2021 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Although he’s technically not Latino because he’s European, Garcia has close ties to the Latin Americans more than just because of their shared language.

Lots of support

That was evident last month at the Riviera Golf Course when he stuck around with most of the Latinos to cheer for Niemann as he won The Genesis Invitational.

Carlos Ortiz
Carlos Ortiz. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

“Having them here on 18, it was something really special for me,” Niemann said of the Latinos after he won The Genesis Invitational. “Obviously we got the tournament, but knowing that they’re there for me, waiting for me to see me receiving the trophy was something really special. I’m really thankful and happy because of the friends that I have.”

Niemann made his debut at THE PLAYERS Championship last year, finishing 29th. Ancer finished 12th in 2019 and 22nd last year. Grillo, who is in the tournament for the sixth time, finished 11th in 2017.

Vegas has made the cut in seven of his nine previous visits, finishing third in 2019 and seventh in 2012.

It has been 42 years since Trevino became the first Latino to win THE PLAYERS Championship. The record seven Latinos in the field at TPC Sawgrass will try to break that drought this week.

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