Lexus Panama Classic 2015

By: Mark K. The 2015 Lexus Panama Classic was held April 30 through May 3.  For the 2nd year in a row, the tournament was presented at the beautiful, Jack Nicklaus designed, Buenaventura Golf Club in Rio Hato.

72 professional and amateur golfers from 15 countries competed for a total purse of $175,000 with Mexican professional, Rodolfo Cazaubon, winning the champions share of $31,500 for his 4 round score of 12 under par. This is the 25 year old Cazaubon’s first professional win on the PGA Latin American tour.

Countries represented included: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Peru, Spain, Sweden, and USA.

The 4 day tournament experienced several weather related delays due to rain and lightning.  Often the players had to cut short their round of golf, only to finish their round the next day and then begin another 18 holes shortly thereafter.  However, the tournament was able to finish on time and award the trophy to Cazaubon on Sunday evening.

It was a wonderful opportunity to witness, up close, many of the stars of the future in the PGA.  The 18 official PGA Latin America Tour events allow players to compete, learn, and work their way up the ranks to the “big leagues” of the PGA Tour. In addition to the PGA Latin America Tour, there are 2 other “minor league” tours worldwide:  PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour China. The top 5 money winners on each tour automatically qualify for the next level, the Tour.

In addition to the golfers competing for prize money, 25 expats volunteered for all or some of the days of the tournament.  They performed duties as varied as delivering fruit and water to the tee boxes, announcing the players’ names as a starter, recording scores as golfers left the greens, and general “gofer” work.  Also volunteering were 60 girls recruited from the Rio Hato High School.  Each volunteer received a special volunteer shirt and hat.  Those volunteers who play golf were invited to play in the Pro-Am on Wednesday before the tournament and were given certificates good for 1 free round of golf for each day that they volunteered.

When asked what they liked best about volunteering at the Lexus Panama Classic, most mentioned the politeness and courtesy of the players.  They also enjoyed watching “golf as it should be played”, “seeing future potential stars”, and getting to play such a high quality golf course.

Speaking with the players is an interesting experience.  While being professional, it is obvious they play golf as much for the love of the game as for the professional opportunity. They were polite, friendly and well spoken.  I even witnessed a player express his anger and frustration to a volunteer scorer after a bad hole and then immediately apologize to that same volunteer.  Imagine that with any other professional athlete.

Head professional, Miguel Marin Casero and his staff did a tremendous job preparing the golf course for the tournament.  While always beautiful and one of the best golf courses at the beaches, the Buenaventura Golf Club course was in especially immaculate condition for the Lexus Panama Classic.  Several volunteers told me how well organized everything was and that they expected to volunteer again next year.