DORAL, Florida—Santiago Castilla, a senior at the University of Texas-El Paso, who has his sights set on turning pro after his graduation next May, learned about the Shell Open Monday qualifier a few weeks ago. With no college tournaments on the UTEP golf team’s schedule this semester, Castilla saw this as a good opportunity. He took advantage of it, shooting a 5-under 66 Monday. No other player in the 120-man field could match the score posted by the 22-year old amateur, and Castilla claimed medalist honors and the first of 10 spots available for the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament at Trump National Doral’s Golden Palm Course, an event that mark’s the Tour’s season restart following a nine-month break.
“I’ve been practicing a lot lately and wanted to try my luck for a spot in this tournament. Fortunately, it worked out,” said Castilla, who also Monday-qualified into his only other PGA TOUR Latinoamérica start at the 2018 Bupa Match Play in Playa del Carmen, near his hometown of Cancun.
Castilla got off to a really hot start Monday at a qualifier that finished Tuesday because of inclement weather. He birdied six of the first eight holes at the Golden Palm Course. After a birdie-par-birdie-birdie-birdie start, he kept his momentum going by holing out from a bunker on No. 7 and added another birdie on No. 8. He recorded two more birdies and three bogeys the rest of the way for a solid 66 in tough, windy conditions.
“I putted great throughout the entire day. I made several long putts, and that hole out I had on the seventh hole was huge for my confidence. After hitting that one in the bunker I could have made bogey, but I walked away with a birdie,” says Castilla, a finance major at UTEP.
Others to qualify include Patrick Cover, who Monday-qualified into last week’s PGA TOUR event, the Mayakoba Classic. Also in is Bryson Nimmer, a two-time tournament winner this summer on the LOCALiQ Series, a set of U.S.-based tournaments designed for PGA TOUR International Tour players who had their seasons cut short because of the pandemic.
The Shell Open begins Thursday morning.
Monday Qualifier Results
66 (-5) Santiago Castilla, Mexico (amateur)
67 (-4) Joaquín Lolas, Peru
67 (-4) Jordan Gumber, U.S.
67 (-4) Patrick Cover, U.S.
68 (-3) Landon Michelson, U.S.
68 (-3) Jorge García, Venezuela
69 (-2) Bryson Nimmer, U.S.
69 (-2) Joseph Winslow, U.S.
69 (-2) Steven Chervony, U.S.
69 (-2) Peter Creighton, U.S.