Miami – Lunch at the Copa de las Americas begins with a general sense of order. As the first groups in this international team competition finish play, teams sit together, easily identifiable by uniform color – Mexico’s green at one table, Colombia’s orange at another, next to Puerto Rico’s red.
As more teams file in and greet each other in the round Terrazza restaurant of the Doral Golf Resort & Spa Miami, the social side of human nature kicks in and entropy takes over. Players walk over to other tables or meet in the aisles to inquire about each other’s rounds, and the colors blend together to resemble a child’s color painting.
“Bien. ¿Y tú?”
“Más o menos.”
The post-round conversations and analyses – the lamenting of missed putts, the retelling of an approach shot that barely cleared a bunker – are common to all, no matter the language.
As much as the competition, this camaraderie is an important aspect of international competitions like the Copa de las Americas, allowing players to form bonds, both with their teammates and golfers from other nations.
The friendship begins with the common bond of playing under the same flag, a tremendous source of pride for all competitors.
“It’s an honor,” said Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz. “It’s a great experience.”
While players from the same country enjoy hanging out together at international competitions, the Mexican men’s twosome of Ortiz and Rodolfo Cazaubon truly make each other feel comfortable. After playing against each other in junior golf, they are now teammates at the University of North Texas, where both are seniors.
“It really helps to play with him,” said Cazaubon, who was also Ortiz’s roommate for two years at North Texas. “I’ve known him since we were little. He’s almost a brother to me.”
After leading North Texas to the Sun Belt Conference title in 2012, the pair hopes to match the feat for their country to kick off 2013. After three rounds, Mexico is second in the overall, men’s and women’s competitions.
Cazaubon and Ortiz also were teammates during the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship, where they finished 26th, and the 2012 World Amateur Team Championship, where they were second behind the United States.
While they are used to being teammates and encouraging each other, there is a heightened level of responsibility that comes with wearing the Mexican flag on their shirts. (And on their belt buckles and shoes – no team has displayed more patriotism than the Mexicans.)
“College is kind of the same team experience,” said Ortiz. “But when you’re playing for your country, it’s bigger.”
Adding another layer of urgency is the Copa’s format. While most team competitions, including collegiate tournaments and the World Amateur Team, drop the team’s highest score each day, every score counts over four rounds at Doral.
“It’s extra pressure,” said Cazaubon. “But we really help other and pick each other up.”
That maxim applies for all. Every country’s players who have finished their rounds wait by the final green and cheer on their teammates, whether they make birdie or bogey.
In addition to setting a stage for displays of national solidarity, international events like the World Amateur Team Championships and the Copa de las Americas promote friendship and camaraderie among players from different countries as they meet and play together all over the world.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be here,” said Peru’s Joaquin Lolas, who has played in three World Amateur Team Championships. “I’ve been all over the place – America, Turkey, Australia. I’m good friends with the Colombian guys. I’ve gotten to know the Argentina guys pretty well.”
After lunch, Lolas walks over to Cazaubon and Ortiz, who are looking at the leader board, and chats for a while. Later, as the Mexican pair is posing for photographs, Lolas walks by on his way to the driving range and heckles them, trying to elicit a laugh.
“It’s a great thing to get to know these guys,” said Lolas. “Any time I go to their country, I can let them know. And any time they come to Peru, they have a house open. That’s the beauty of playing for your country and playing with different countries.”
Hunki Yun is a senior writer for the USGA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.