McALLEN — Ricardo Samar, a 58-year old from Monterrey, Mexico, who won the McAllen Amateur on Sunday, wasn’t even scheduled to play in the event.
His two rounds this weekend were the first he has ever played at Palm View Golf Course.
“I can hit the ball very straight. That is my advantage,” Samar said. “Of course, it helps a lot when you know the course. I think I lost at least five or six shots yesterday, because I didn’t know the course.”
Samar has known director of golf at Palm View Carlos Espinosa, who is from Reynosa, for many years. Samar travels to the Valley once every week or so for work, but he had never played in the McAllen Amateur. Samar is an avid golfer and has been golfing since he was 12, but he rarely plays on the American side of the border.
In recent years, Samar has heard much praise for the McAllen Amateur from his golf buddies. This year, he finally decided he needed a taste of the action.
“I wanted to sign up, but when I did, it was full,” Samar said. “Thank God it rained. They had to cancel the tournament, and then that opened up about five spots, and that is when I got in.”
Still, he had never played Palm View before, so when he started his first round on Saturday, he felt some growing pains.
Samar shot a 75 on Saturday, putting him into a tie for ninth place.
He charged to the front of the pack on Sunday. By the 12th hole of the final round, Samar was one over and tied for the lead.
“In the first nine holes, I hit it pure,” Samar said.
Samar had been coy about the competitive nature of the tournament when he told his family. His wife, Veronica, and their children, Luis Ricardo (13) and Gabriel Alejandro (12), were shopping, enjoying the refreshing air conditioning on the hot afternoon, when they got word Samar was near the top of the leaderboard.
“They came right away,” Samar said. “They didn’t even buy anything. They left right away. So, I saved some money.”
Samar shot a 69 on Sunday, the best 18-hole score of the tournament, which meant he was at even par after both rounds. He knew the score was good.
“I made a birdie on 11, and that was when they told me I was tied with the leaders,” Samar said. “I said, ‘There is a lot of wind, and I know the pin placements are very hard. I know the way they play. OK, I have a chance.’”
Joe Avitia, last year’s winner, and Arnold Curiel were in the lead after the first round, so they were in the final grouping of the championship flight, a few groups behind Samar. Avitia saw his early lead slip away on Sunday after he struggled on the front nine. Curiel passed Avitia and was ahead by two strokes after 14 holes on Sunday.
Avitia regrouped and put pressure on the leaders during his last four holes. He hit a beautiful birdie putt on 17 to tie Curiel and give himself a chance for the win on 18.
Avitia hit two great shots to put himself right next to the green, but he needed to sink the par-5 18 in three shots to force a tie. As Avitia lined up his third shot, he was just outside the green, but he went for the putter anyway. His shot was very close but trickled past the hole, clinching the win for Samar.
“When I realized I had won, I loved it,” Samar said. “My family, they were so happy, and I was glad to have them here for this special moment.”
Now that Samar has had a taste of the best tournament in the Valley, he is hooked. He can’t wait to defend his title next year.
“Of course, I will be back,” he said with a laugh. “If I am in good health, if God lets me, I will be here.”
This story has been updated to reflect that Ricardo Samar is from Monterrey, Mexico.
McALLEN AMATEUR GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
At Palm View Golf Course
Ricardo Samar 75-69—144
Arnold Curiel 72-74—146
Joe Avitia 71-75—146
McLean Beckwith 73-76—149
Javier Vargas 74-76—150
Jesus T. Barrera 74-76—150
Willie Gonzalez Jr. 76-75—151
Calvin Lackey 73-79—152
Tom Alcoack 75-77—152
Chris Wicker 72-81—153
Ross Ledesma 79-74—153
Bryan Kennedy 74-80—154
Hector Martinez 75-79—154
Jordan Goldschmidt 79-76—155
Carlos Reyes 82-75—157
Cameron MacDonald 76-82—158
Jonathan Sloss 77-81—158
Christopher De Leon 80-78—158
Eddie Monroy 78-84—162
Rene Lopez II 79-83—162
Jay Ybarra 80-83—163
Jerry Farias 83-80—163
Edgar Valdez 80-84—164
Daniel Rincones 79-86—165
Eric Fritts 87-81—168
Derrick Salinas 94-81—175
David Lopez Jr. 98-95—193