On March 11, 2012 the most lucrative sporting prize ever given on Chilean soil – a whopping US$600,000 – will be awarded to the winner of the inaugural Chile Classic.
Beginning on March 8, the Chile Classic marks the first appearance of the PGA Nationwide Tour in the country, and only the third in South America. It also marks a major turning point in the sport’s popularity in Chile, where it is beginning to gain traction alongside traditional sports like football, tennis and rodeo.
The tour provides professional players with the opportunity to enter the PGA Tour – considered the world’s most important golf tournament – and its arrival to Chilean soil could make the country a focal point for the development of the game in South America.
“The Nationwide Tour creates opportunities,” said its president, Bill Calfee, “and with the continual appearance of South American players on the PGA Tour, we see an opportunity of an incredible alliance with Chile,” he said.
“The Nationwide Tour is the best path for players to test their level and to earn the right to enter the PGA Tour. We are happy that South American players will have this opportunity.”
And with the sport’s addition to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, it could be a pivotal few years for South American golf.
“The 2016 Olympic Games will be held in Río de Janeiro and the Chile Classic will have a major relevance in contributing to the growth of the game in the region,” said Calfee.
The 2012 Chile Classic – which will be held at the Prince of Wales Country Club, in the Santiago neighborhood of La Reina – is expected to attract 144 competitors from 20 countries around the world.
Chilean competitors will include the country’s two top-ranked players, Felipe Aguilar and Mark Tullo, as well as Benjamín Alvarado, who finished second in the Tour de las Américas 2011. The country is also expecting to receive professional players from abroad for the qualification rounds in Viña del Mar and La Serena.
“We are very happy that the PGA Nationwide Tour is coming to Chile”, said Alejandro Peric, president of Podium Sports. “Bringing the PGA Tour here marks Chile’s arrival on to the international golf stage. We look forward to welcoming everyone to Santiago de Chile in March.”