The youngest champion

A budding professional career did not stop the Mexican Carlos Ortiz from becoming the youngest winner of the Panama Claro Championship. After graduating from the University of North Texas last year, the mere 22-year old is already playing his first season as a professional golfer.

"It's my first season on the Tour. I just finished college and became a professional to play here," said the new title-holder.

Ortiz became the second Latin American (after Miguel Carballo in 2007) to win on isthmian terrain, and the first to do so in the Tour 2014 season.

Yesterday the Guadalajara native signed his best card of the week, to clinch the title. He shot 64 (6 under par), with six birdies out of the 18 holes played that day for a cumulative score of 268 (12 under par).

"Today [yesterday] I played excellent. I closed hard," expressed Ortiz, who in the three rounds earlier had scores of 70, 68, and 66.

This victory, on top of his earlier good scores, gives him a chance at the PGA Tour, the top professional golf circuit.

This season he ranked third in the Pacific Rubiales (Colombia) and in Brazil ended in 22nd place.

He dedicated the win to his family, a source of constant support.

"I dedicate this triumph to my family who has always supported me," added the player from Jalisco, on his first visit to Panama.

"It's my first time coming to Panama. The golf course is honestly very nice. The hardest thing this week was the wind and the slightly damaged greens, which made it very difficult to make putts," pointed out the Mexican.

Before playing this event, the fourth in the season, Ortiz was the top ranked Latin American on the money list. Now he not only maintains that position but is second in earnings, thanks to his triumph in Panama, where he took away a check for $112.500 dollars. He now has $171,500 in prize money.

"This [reaching the PGA Tour] is what I work hard for, and I think the results are showing," affirmed Ortiz, who will immediately go on with the agenda.

"From here I'm headed to Louisiana tomorrow [today]," declared the 2014 champion.

Last year Ortiz played in the Q-School, the final qualifying tournament to get into the Tour, and won the card that entitles him to playing eight tournaments in the first half of the season.

The Tour calendar will continue this week with the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, then moving on to Ortiz's home country for the El Bosque Mexico Championship, the sixth event of the year.

Source: Panamá América

Photos: Demetrio Montenegro