LATIN AMERICA AMATEUR
LAAC: Ordonez Competes With New Perspective January 13, 2015 | Buenos Aires, Argentina By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Chile's Guillermo Pereira, No. 6 in the latest World Amateur Golf Ranking, is the highest-ranked player in the LAAC. (Enrique Berardi/LAAC)

Miguel Ordonez of Panama estimates that he has competed for his country nearly 150 times, starting at age 6. But this week at the Latin America Amateur Championship is completely different for him, because he became a father just a couple of days ago.

“She was supposed to be born on January 29th,” said Ordonez, 31, of Panama City. “The doctor had some concerns in late December, but everything looked fine at the next appointment, and I was ready to leave at midday on Monday for the tournament.”

Ordonez received three calls on the way to the airport and found out that the baby was scheduled to be born that day, by Caesarean section at 5 p.m. Daneila, the mother of Ordonez’s child, was OK, but the baby was suffering from hypoxia from a compressed umbilical cord and needed to be delivered quickly.

“I’ve got to give Daniela tons of credit,” said Ordonez. “Our circumstances weren’t easy – we’re not married, and we have had a rough time. She went into the OR, and the epidural had made her nauseous. She felt really bad, and asked me to take her hand. It’s like TV, you’re doing all the Grey’s Anatomy stuff – there’s about eight people there, nurses and doctors, and suddenly they’re pulling your baby out.”

The baby girl, named Aurora, was born perfectly healthy, and Ordonez heeded their instructions to take her in his arms.

“I felt very stressed when I got her – I wasn’t sure if I was holding her right,” said Ordonez. “It’s almost unfair, because the mother has done all the work. You’re just sitting there and she’s had surgery, and then you walk out with the baby and you’re the rock star.”

When he brought Aurora out to waiting family and friends, Ordonez felt overwhelmed by two moments.

“First was when I saw my mom [Berth] there,” Ordonez said. “I was so relieved, and so many emotions came out; I let everything go. And then my father, Miguel, came walking toward me. He has had some health issues the last few years, and we weren’t sure that this moment would come for him. I felt like, now I get it.”

In Panamanian culture, a celebration accompanies the baby’s birth. “A bunch of people came and there were gifts, people drinking champagne and hugging,” said Ordonez. “But later, I got to be alone with my baby for the first time. Babies don’t open their eyes much, but she did – she looked at me, and you could see that she sized me up and said, you’re my dad and I’m safe.”

Ordonez arrived at Pilar Golf in time to play 14 holes on Wednesday, walking the other four holes. The 12-time Panama Amateur champion declared himself ready for whatever happens this week.

“This tournament is huge for me,” said Ordonez, who played at the University of North Florida. “When I got that invitation with my name on it, with the letterhead of the Masters, the USGA and The R&A, I felt validated, like everything I had done to that point in in my golf career had paid off. I love the history of the game and I’m so thankful that these three organizations came together to create an event like this.”

As the second-ranked player from Panama in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, Ordonez earned an automatic invitation. The No. 1 player, Marcos Cabarcos, was forced to withdraw because of an injury.

“I am carrying the torch, because we couldn’t find a replacement,” said Ordonez, who calls his victory in the 2009 Simon Bolivar Championship his top achievement. “But it will probably be the most relaxed tournament I have ever played because it’s not about the results, it’s about being proud and enjoying the journey.”

The pride stems both from being in the field and being a newly minted father.

“It’s hard to be here and not be with her, because she’s only two days born,” said Ordonez. “But at the same time, I have her in my heart. In the past, I have been too tough on myself, too critical. This week, if I hit a bad shot, I’m going to think of my girl.” 

Father and Son Competition

Payten Wight and his father have staged many friendly competitions on the golf course.

“Honestly, I haven’t beaten him yet,” said the 20-year-old from the Cayman Islands. “But hopefully I’ll come out with a victory here.”

Payten and his father, Michael, 50, are the British territory’s representatives in this week’s championship, and they both singled out the short game as their strongest suit.

“I think I can improve quite a bit mentally,” said Payten, who didn’t take to the game right away. “I played a lot of baseball, tennis and other sports, but I recently picked golf back up in competition. It’s become my favorite sport, but I also play a lot of soccer.”

The senior Wight won the 2014 Cayman Islands Amateur, with Payten finishing third. Their country has just one 18-hole course and two 9-hole courses, but Payten cited a growing interest in the game among junior players.

Michael Wight is probably better known for his cricket prowess, having captained the Cayman Islands team in international events for many years. His cricket days are long over, he said.

“My last game was probably six or seven years ago,” said Michael, who was born and raised in the islands. “I was the captain when we founded the team, and I competed quite late for a cricket player, but my knee finally went on me. I was trying to hang on until some of the younger players came through.”

Golf gradually came to the fore, although his prowess in the bat-and-ball game did not provide any advantage.

“Cricket and golf – the swings are completely different,” said Michael. “When I was playing both, it caused trouble in both sports.”

Gradually, golf took over, and it landed him here in Buenos Aires, where he wryly noted that he was one of the oldest players in the field.

“It’s very strange,” he said, pointing to his son. “I’ve been mistaken for his manager already.” 

WAGR Prowess in the Field

As of the release of the weekly World Amateur Golf Ranking on Wednesday, the following 20 players are in the top 500: 

• Guillermo Pereira, Chile – No. 6

• Jorge Garcia, Venezuela – No. 38

• Jose Mendez, Costa Rica – No. 40

• Alejandro Tosti, Argentina – No. 64

• Santiago Gomez, Colombia – No. 138

• Jose Luis Montano, Bolivia – No. 151

• Nicolas Echavarria, Colombia – No. 156

• Juan Alvarez, Uruguay – No. 163

• Andre Tourinho, Brazil – No. 203

• Alvaro Ortiz, Mexico – No. 256

• Gustavo Silva, Chile – No. 260

• Edward Figueroa, Puerto Rico – No. 305

• Juan Sebastian Munoz, Colombia – No. 326

• Joaquin Niemann, Chile – No. 328

• Matias Simaski, Argentina – No. 331

• Matias Dominguez, Chile – No. 412

• Esteban Restrepo, Colombia – No. 431

• Rodrigo Jose Rivas Munoz, Chile – No. 433

• Santiago Bauni, Argentina – No. 440

• Juan Miguel Heredia, Ecuador – No. 460

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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