From November 17 to 20, Pilar Golf in Buenos Aires will host the region’s most important amateur golf championship, the Women’s Amateur Latin America (WALA).
Sixty players are dreaming of following in the footsteps of 2021 winner, Valery Plata. With support from The R&A and the ANNIKA Foundation, these are some of the young women to watch in this year’s edition:
Maria Jose Marin Negrete (Colombia): The 2021 runner-up arrives as the favorite to win the trophy. The 16-year-old is already committed to play collegiately at the University of Arkansas. Despite her relatively short amateur career, she has already captured many big wins including the Junior Orange Bowl, the South American Junior Championship (twice), the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship and the Florida Junior Match Play Championship. In 2022, she won the Gold Medal in the South American Games, the Colombian Open, and several national championships. She is ranked 64th in the World Amateur Rankings (WAGR).
Michelle Melandri Smith (Chile): The 20-year-old will make her WALA debut. but she has already played the ANNIKA Invitational Latin America in 2018. Michelle is the highest-ranked Chilean in the WAGR (182nd) and played in the 2018 ANNIKA Invitational Latin America. This season her results include four wins, one second and one third. Her best performance at the international level was a 15th-place finish in the Junior Orange Bowl International 2019.
Maria Cabanillas (Argentina): Over the last two years, Maria has won 11 times and emerged as one of Argentina’s best juniors. The 17-year-old came in fourth in the last Women’s Amateur Latin America, and in 2019 she placed 11th in the ANNIKA Invitational Latin America. Her first victory as an amateur was in 2019 at the São Paulo State Winter Youth Championship. In 2021, she enjoyed a strong performance at the Junior Orange Bowl International (12th) and also competed in the Diamond Resorts ANNIKA Invitational presented by Rolex.
Giovanna Fernandez Lopez (Paraguay): Yet another member of the Arkansas women’s golf team, Giovanna has captured more than 20 amateur titles around the world, such as the Faldo Series South America Championship, the Sao Fernando Women's Open, the Billy Horschel Junior Championship and this year the Amateur Open in Brazil. Other strong finishes include two second-place finishes at the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship. The 19-year-old came in 12th at the 2021 WALA and sixth at the 2019 ANNIKA Invitational Latin America. She also participated in the Diamond Resorts ANNIKA Invitational presented by Rolex in 2021.
Valentina Rossi (Argentina): A junior at Michigan State University, Valentina came in third at the last WALA. The 21-year-old golfer has won several national titles, and at the international level earned second place at the 2020 South American Amateur and seventh at the Junior Orange Bowl International that same year. In 2021, she reached the semifinals of the 2021 U.S. Women's Amateur, one of the most important amateur championships in the world. Valentina finished among the top five in three editions of the ANNIKA Invitational Latin America and also played in the ANNIKA Invitational Europe (2018) and the ANNIKA Invitational USA presented by Rolex (2019 and 2020).
Ela Belen Anacona (Argentina): A 22-year-old senior at the University of Arkansas, she counts the 2017 South American Youth Championship as one of her biggest victories. She also won the Silver Medal in the South American Youth Games in 2017 and was runner-up in the ANNIKA Invitational Latin America in 2016, 2017 and 2018. A veteran of ANNIKA events, she has played in the ANNIKA Invitational Europe, ANNIKA Invitational USA presented by Rolex (2019) and ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M. This will be her second start in the Women's Amateur Latin America.
Valentina Bosselmann (Brazil): Brazil’s No. 1-ranked player, she’s won several important tournaments in her short career. Born in Germany, the 17-year-old has played this year in the Junior Orange Bowl International and the World Amateur Team Championships.
Valeria Mendizabal (Guatemala): Valeria will be competing in her second WALA, after placing fifth in the inaugural edition. The 23-year-old is currently a senior at Mississippi State University. She has won the Central American Junior Amateur Championship (2017), the Volcanes Cup (2019), and the Central American Ladies Stableford Championship (2020). Meanwhile, in the United States, she won the MSU-Payne Stewart Memorial and Little Rock Classic in 2019. In addition, she had a great performance at the 2021 U.S. Women's Amateur where she made it to the Round of 32.
Other Names of Note:
Constanza Quiroga Hinojosa (Bolivia): Will be participating in her first Women's Amateur Latin America championship. She is the top-ranked Bolivian player and has won several titles this year in her country.
Ana Sofia Murcia (Colombia): The 17-year-old is making her second WALA appearance in the WALA and is Colombia’s No. 2-ranked player. Her best finishes this year are a fourth at the Junior Orange Bowl International, second at the South American Junior and 13th at the Toyota Junior World Cup. She’s also won two titles at the national level.
Camila Zignaigo (Peru): Peru’s No. 2 player will be making her Women's Amateur Latin America debut. The 15-year-old has won several national tournaments this season. At the international level she has captured third at the Brendan Cunningham Open and fifth at the Florida Junior Match Play Championship.
Ha Ni Lee (Guatemala): Playing in her first WALA. She has played well this year with a second at the World Stars of Junior Golf Championship and 14th at the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship. She also played in The Junior Open-The R&A and represented her country in the World Amateur Team Championship.
All these young women are vying for the opportunity to not only win the Women’s Amateur Latin America, but also earn invitations for three of next year’s professional majors: The Chevron Championship (20-23 April at The Club at Carlton Woods, United States), the Amundi Evian Championship (27-30 July at Evian Resort Golf Club, France), and the AIG Women´s Open (10-13 August at Walton Heath Golf Club, England).