The Latinoamérica Tour will be paying its first-ever visit to Nicklaus Design’s Ruitoque Golf & Country Club course in Bucaramanga, as the Colombian Golf Federation rotates venues in order to showcase its National Open Championship around the country’s top golf courses. The Arturo Calle Colombian Open presented by Diners Club joins the NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica for the third straight season and serves as the Tour’s inaugural event for the first time. The season will feature a total of 16 tournaments in 10 countries, spread in two halves between February and December.
Ruitoque Golf & Country Club is one of only two Nicklaus Design courses located in Colombia—the other being Karibana in Cartagena, which opened in 2012. Ruitoque opened for play in 1997 and the par-72 golf course is considered one of South America’s finest. Located in a plateau known as “La Mesa de los Santos,” Ruitoque Golf & Country Club provides a very challenging layout with several elevation changes and stunning views of Bucaramanga, the Colombian Eastern Mountain Range and the Chicamocha Canyon.
There are 144 players from 20 countries in this week’s field, led by 52 players from the United States, 30 players from Colombia, and 19 players from Argentina. Timothy O’Neal, from Savannah, Ga., returns to the field to defend a title he won last May in Pereira, Colombia. The 40-year-old birdied Nos. 14, 15 and 17 on his way to a final round of 66 to win by two strokes over Oscar Serna of Mexico. O’Neal will face six of last year’s top players, including three of the 2013 Order of Merit top 5 (a.k.a. “Los Cinco”), who advanced to the Web.com Tour. The players are competing for a $150,000 purse with a $27,000 winner’s share.
The only three amateurs set to play this week are young Colombians who are also members of the Ruitoque Golf & Country Club. The Ramírez brothers, Felipe and Iván Camilo, received sponsor exemptions after finishing as champion and runner-up at last week’s Colombian Open Amateur played on this same venue. With his victory at that event, Felipe Ramírez, who is just 14 years, 5 months and 6 days old, became the youngest winner. He broke a record set by Camilo Villegas, who was 15 when he won back in 1997. The other local amateur on the field is Jairo Berbeo, who carded a 69 to finish tied for fifth in the Monday Qualifier.
The 2014 NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica features 16 tournaments in 10 countries, up from 14 events in nine countries last year. Each event counts toward the Tour’s Order of Merit, which rewards its leading five players with status on the Web.com Tour for the 2015 season. The player finishing No. 1 on the Order of Merit will be awarded the Roberto De Vicenzo Award as well as full exempt status on the 2015 Web.com Tour. The first two winners of that award have been Ariel Cañete of Argentina in 2012 and Ryan Blaum of the United States in 2013.
For more information about Ruitoque Golf & Country Club, visit http://www.ruitoquegolf.com/es/.