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The 149th Open


Teenager Gallegos earns Royal St George's exemption

Abel Gallegos

Argentina’s Abel Gallegos is set to compete at The 149th Open after becoming the second-youngest winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The 17-year-old was in devastating form on the Mexican fairways, showing experience beyond his years to hold off home favourite Aaron Terrazas and secure a four-shot victory.

And the result has significant ramifications for July's Open at Royal St George’s, with Gallegos’ victory meaning he earns exemption to compete for both the Claret Jug as well as at The Masters at Augusta in April.

The teenage star shot a majestic final round of 67 at El Camaleon Mayakoba Golf Club to repel Terrazas’ late charge, also beating Colombia’s Jose Vega – who finished in third – to book his place in Sandwich in six months’ time.

And Gallegos, who is the same age at The Open’s youngest ever champion – Tom Morris Jr in 1868 – was over the moon to triumph and give himself a chance of becoming the Championship’s first South American winner since compatriot Roberto De Vincenzo in 1967.

“It was an amazing day,” he said.

Abel Gallegos Open

“It was difficult to get up in the morning, knowing I had all this pressure, and last night, when I put my head on the pillow, I had all types of thoughts running through my head.

“But when I woke up, I stood up, I looked at myself in the mirror and I said, ‘You can do this. Let’s do it.’”

Gallegos’ stunning final round 67 was one of 12 rounds below par on the closing day of the competition, as he capitalised on the conducive scoring conditions to waltz to victory and mark himself out as one of the sport’s most promising talents.

He became the second-youngest winner of the Championship behind Paul Chaplet - who triumphed as a 16-year-old in 2016  - honing his skills in the small town of 25 de Mayo, two hours outside Buenos Aires, on the nine-hole course Las Mulitas.

And Gallegos' success saw him receive global golfing attention, with 16-time Open competitor and fellow Argentinian Angel Cabrera hailing the young starlet for his maiden crowning glory.

“I will be waiting for you at the Masters so you can enjoy that great tournament,” said the 2009 winner at Augusta, who also tied for fourth at The 128th Open at Carnoustie ten years before.

While the South American’s win will see him compete at two of the sport’s most prestigious championships, Gallegos also booked his place in the final stage of qualification for this year’s US Open at Winged Foot.

Gallegos Junior Open

He is also now eligible to play at the Amateur Championship, the US Amateur Championship and any other USGA event for which he meets the criteria.

And as he embarks on what promises to be a memorable 2020, Gallegos hailed Cabrera’s influence on his career and called on fellow Argentinians to follow in his footsteps.

“He is a hero back home – to have him congratulate me, it is everything,” Gallegos said of Cabrera.

“For me, it’s an immense pride.

“To put my country up there with the best is something that makes me very proud, and hopefully, more Argentinians will go on to win this tournament in the future.”