U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Chaplet's Summer Turned With LAAC Title July 17, 2016 | Ooltewah, Tenn. By Stuart Hall

Paul Chaplet has enjoyed a whirlwind summer since his January victory in the Latin America Amateur Championship. (USGA/Scott Miller)

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When Paul Chaplet turned the calendar to 2016, he was looking at a light summer golf schedule. Two, maybe three, tournaments, he figured.

That scenario was scuttled by mid-January.

The lanky, blond Costa Rican won the second Latin America Amateur Championship at Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog Course in the Dominican Republic.

Chaplet closed with a 2-under 70 for a 3-under 285 and then began an anxious wait while tied with Venezuela’s Jorge Garcia, who had yet to finish.

“When someone told me Jorge Garcia made bogey on 17, I started thinking about the consequences,” Chaplet said. “When I walked out of the scoring tent, I started getting really nervous. I walked out to the course and when Garcia missed his putt [on the 18th for birdie to force a playoff], I think I blacked out for a moment.”

Chaplet gladly embraced the consequences – an invitation to the Masters, along with exemptions into the U.S. Amateur Championship and The Amateur Championship, conducted by The R&A. He also earned exemptions into U.S. Open sectional qualifying and the final qualifying stage for The Open Championship.

Because he was age-eligible, Chaplet is also taking advantage of the exemption into this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur at The Honors Course that he earned by winning the Latin America Amateur Championship.

“I have a coach [David Parritt] who has a lot of contacts here in the U.S. and who would have been able to get me into the qualifiers,” said Chaplet, who is 549th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™. “Maybe I wouldn’t have made it to these tournaments. So I’m really glad I got to play in all of these tournaments and get a full experience of what it is to travel and play competitively.”

Chaplet, then 16, arrived at Augusta National Golf Club in April as the second-youngest player and first Costa Rican to play in the Masters.

“I feel I shouldn’t have been at the Masters this year, that it came too early,” said Chaplet, who did not qualify for the U.S. Open or The Open Championship. “Because it’s really tough for a kid, especially when you’ve seen it on TV for four or five years, and you’re dreaming about it and then it happens all of a sudden. That was very overwhelming.”

Chaplet took more away than a missed cut from his first major. He played his two rounds with 1998 Masters champion Mark O’Meara and David Lingmerth, and soaked up lessons that will benefit him in the future.

“At the amateur level, I’m pretty good, but where I want to go, there is a long road to go,” he said. “When I played in the Masters, it really opened my eyes to the fact these guys work a lot harder than I do. Everything they do is professional and you don’t realize that until you play with them. In that sense, I realized I wasn’t working hard enough to get where I want to get.

“With all of these tournaments I have learned about myself, the limits I have and how can I overcome them. With the LAAC, I overcame the fear of winning and with all of these other tournaments, I’ve been accumulating experience. But there is still a lot to learn.”

After repeating as runner-up in the Costa Rica National Junior in January, he tied for 40th in the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in April. At last month’s Amateur Championship, he posted a 12-over 154 and failed to qualify for match play at Royal Porthcawl. Again, a score did not simply define his time along the Wales coastline.

“It was way more difficult than I expected it to be,” Chaplet said.

“The conditions there were really tough – cold weather, a lot of wind – and I really wasn’t playing poorly.”

A couple of days prior to arriving for his first USGA championship, Chaplet tied for 11th in the IMG Academy Junior World Championship at Torrey Pines’ South Course in San Diego.

Despite the finish, Chaplet believes he squelched some ball-striking hiccups and is putting well, a combination he needs to play his best.

Chaplet’s play has garnered collegiate attention, but he remains undecided. He is hopeful another week like the one in the Dominican Republic in January might improve his stock.

Chaplet has been playing since he was 10, when he accompanied his sister to a lesson. The coach asked if he would like to hit a shot.

“I hit the first one pretty good and it got me going,” he said, “and here I am.”

Thanks also to his LAAC title.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.

 

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