Julian Perico, 17, competed as the youngest player at the Latin America Amateur Championship and walked away with an experience of a lifetime. Perico started hot in the first round with a 6-under 64 at Club de Golf de Panama to take a one-shot lead. Perico’s stellar round set the tournament’s 18-hole scoring record and his 29 on the first nine holes was also a new record.
We caught up with Perico when he returned to BGGA to talk about his experience.
BGGA: What was your goal heading into the Latin America Amateur Championship?
Perico: My goal at the Latin America Amateur Championship was to make the cut, and after that it was to make the top 10. I really didn’t think of winning before the tournament. I was really calm and steady and focusing on my positives.
BGGA: How did you prepare for the tournament?
Perico: I played two big tournaments before that one to gain momentum for it. I then just went out there and played the best I could.
BGGA: What was this experience like?
Perico: My experience at the Latin America Amateur Championship was amazing. It was surreal. I never played that good in my life. I did a lot of work to prepare for the tournament, and it worked out really well. I broke two records in the first round with the lowest scores on 9 and 18 holes in tournament history.
The second day was a struggle, but it was a great experience also. I got to experience how it is to be on TV and to be with all the cameras, Dottie Pepper and everybody watching my life and running after my balls. It was really nice.
BGGA: How did you find out you had set the 9- and 18-hole scoring records after the first round?
Perico: I looked at the previous scores, and I knew that with nine holes to play I had the record already. I wanted to keep it that way and break 65.
BGGA: What were you feeling when leading the event to start the second round?
Perico: I was really calm and steady because I thought that it was going to be the same as the first day but it wasn’t. It was so uncomfortable to play with all of those (TV) guys out there, but in the end, it was a great learning experience for me.
BGGA: What did you think of the attention you received after the first round?
Perico: I got a lot of press conferences and I had fun. I wasn’t expecting it to be that big, but it was really big.
BGGA: How did you feel about your finish?
Perico: In the end, I came in fourth, one shot off a playoff with Alvaro, Joaquín and Toto and their big friends of mine. I’m really glad for them to make it, but I would’ve loved to have won and play in Augusta in three months. In the end, someone had to win it and I’m happy for Toto.
What did you learn from this experience?
Perico: I had the lead after the first day. I broke two records and I was having fun out there. The second day was a struggle, as I wasn’t used to the cameras and everything. I did the best I could, and it still was a good learning experience. When I have this in following years in that event, if I get the opportunity to compete as well as I did, I will know how to manage myself. I did manage myself better the last two rounds. It’s just that the second round was really tough for me.
BGGA: What are your plans and goals this spring?
Perico: I know I have big things to come. I’m looking forward to play some big events in the rest of the year.
BGGA: Final thoughts on the week.
Perico: In the end, the experience was amazing. They treat us like kings. It’s an event run by the R&A, The Masters and the USGA, so they basically made it perfect. It was one of the greatest weeks for me.