The South Beach International Amateur presented its fans with two notable firsts Wednesday on the final day of the tournament at Miami Beach Golf Club.
First, Jorge Garcia became the only South Florida player to win the tournament, an event which is a world amateur major in only its fifth year.
Second, Luis Garza shot a 10-under-par 61, the lowest score ever recorded on the Miami Beach course — that would be for an amateur, pro or any other type of golfer you can come up with. Simply the lowest score ever there.
Garcia was born in Venezuela and still plays for his country at times. But he grew up in South Florida and attended Plantation American Heritage, winning two state high school individual titles before becoming a University of Florida freshman this fall.
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On Wednesday, he made all of his coaches in all those spots proud by shooting a meticulous, 5-under 66 to take the championship in his fourth try with rounds of 69, 70, 71 and 66 for an 8-under 276 total.
“This is a huge victory for me,” said Garcia, who entered the final round two shots back. “I thought 66 might be the number I would need, and that was what I hit.”
That 66 was more than enough.
Three players tied for second at 279, three shots behind Garcia — Americans Jacob Hicks (73-68-68-70) and Sarosh Adi (74-64-70-71), and Mexico’s Garza (73-71-74-61).
Garcia said there were two turning points in his round.
After making bogey at No. 9, he remembered: “I got in the zone.”
On No. 10, he made an eagle 3, and on the 13th he recorded a crucial birdie. “I hit a little slider of a putt there that was big,” he said.
Finishing early, Garza sat back, hoping against hope that his 61 would be good enough to win.
“All I can do is wait,” Garza explained.
After a while, he got tired of waiting at the clubhouse and went out to see how Garcia was doing. The answer was that Garcia was doing quite well.
When Garcia holed out on 18, the two of them — they are friends who have played together many times — approached each other.
“Nice job,” Garza said to Garcia of his round.
“Incredible round,” Garcia said of Garza’s 61.
With that, they both smiled and shook hands.
BILL VAN SMITH
▪ Orange Bowl Doral-Publix Junior Classic: Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela shot a 71 in windy conditions in the final round to make up a three-shot deficit and overtake runner-up Ava Bergner of Germany by one stroke in the girls’ 16-18 championship.
“I knew [Wednesday] if I just played normal I would have a chance to get back to the top,” said Valenzuela, who entered Wednesday tied for seventh after two rounds among a crowded leaderboard and finished with a 228 total. “I had a good day. [Tuesday] I had a lot of bad luck.”
Rodrigo Sanchez of the Dominican Republic cruised to the boys’ 16-18 title, maintaining a five-stroke lead in the final round for a 226 score.
The 17-year-old won for the first time in his fourth try at Doral.
“I never expected to win this tournament,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t take [the lead] for granted. I kept playing like I was playing before.”
In the younger divisions, France’s Aymeric Laussot and Mexico’s Isabella Fierro won the boys’ and girls’ 14-15 championships, respectively — each by four shots. Laussot had a 220 total and Fierro 222.
Miami FC announced the addition of seasoned goalkeeper David Sierra to its roster for the 2016 NASL season. Sierra, a native of Madrid, has spent the majority of his career in Spain, with a few stints in Honduras and Puerto Rico. Sierra is the first goalkeeper announced for next season.