Latin America Amateur Championship: Notes From Panama, Thursday

Fergus Bisset is in Panama for the Latin America Amateur Championship. Here’s what he’s up to today.

Santa Maria
The 13th green at Santa Maria GC, with striking backdrop
(Image credit: Fergus Bisset)

Either this course is extremely difficult to navigate, or my sense of direction is steadily becoming poorer with age. I have a fear it’s the latter as nobody else seems to be getting as lost as me.

I walked out a couple of hours ago to try to watch some Latin America Amateur Championship golf on the, highly elusive, back nine. I could see from the map it was somewhere behind a couple of tower blocks, but I was damned if I could find my way past them. I ended up walking about halfway back to Panama City and found myself in the resort’s Property Sales office. A very nice, but a little too amused for my liking, chap gave me directions on how to get back to the real world. He drew me a map using a highlighter pen. He even offered me a lift given I was so far off track, but I declined out of embarrassment. I set off again and was eventually picked up in a buggy by Shona McRae of R&A Rules fame who spotted me stumbling about somewhere in the vicinity of the 18th green. She dropped me off beside it and told me to try to stay cool… It was too late Shona, much too late.

Perhaps my confusion stemmed from the fact I have a very mild hangover caused mainly by the gala reception last night and partly by a spot of post-gala sightseeing in a couple of rooftop bars in the old part of Panama City. 

The reception was hosted in the ruins of a convent dating from the 1600s – a spectacular setting. There were speeches and toasts and a surreal show by a troupe of performers showcasing Panama’s cultural history that was something like Cirque du Soleil meets Bjork meets a children’s party entertainer on acid… Very entertaining stuff.

Santa Maria

The 15th green

(Image credit: Fergus Bisset)

I’ve become lost again. Back to the golf course. The back nine is far more developed than the front here at Santa Maria Golf Club (as described in yesterday's ramblings,) and most holes are pretty tight. I think Golf Care might put up my premiums if I tell them I’m playing here on Monday. Properties line the fairways and, in some places, reasonably busy roads bound them too. I was hyperventilating watching a few of the groups teeing off. I would be hitting, closing my eyes and hoping not to hear a smash.

Luckily these young guys are seriously good, although I did see Joseph Sibilly of the US Virgin Islands hit one off the planet to the right from the 16th tee. I think it landed in someone’s rum punch as they sat on their verandah. Poor old Joseph is dead last right now. To be fair, he has an excellent swing so obviously just a bad day. His three off the tee was something to be admired. 

I did witness a bit of criminally cavalier play out there – Must be that famous Latin American temperament. On the 315-yard 11th, Camilo Avilia of Bolivia confidently whipped out driver, despite the fact it’s all carry over water to the green and the fairway on the left runs out at about 240 yards. He’s a big lad and I reckon he probably did have the firepower, but he blocked it by three yards, found the water then sheepishly pulled out an iron and knocked his third down the left onto the fairway. I think his caddie should maybe have a word.

Santa Maria

Santa Maria GC - 12th hole

(Image credit: Fergus Bisset)

It's breezy out there and the course is playing tough. The leading score is currently just three-under and only nine players are under par. The greens seem the main challenge – they look like they reject the ball if it’s not put in the perfect spot and getting up-and-down is tough. I think a good score today is level par and there won’t be many who do it.

For those interested in my lunch, (see pic below,) and I know there are plenty of you out there, today’s was an incredible medley of red snapper, slightly spiced chicken, beef stroganoff and tomato rigatoni. The chefs here really know what they’re doing – thanks so much to them (said in true golf club speech-style.)


Thursday lunch 

(Image credit: Fergus Bisset)

A small disappointment as I made my way back to the clubhouse though. My planned afternoon activity has been scuppered – see the picture below.



(Image credit: Fergus Bisset)

I’d had my heart set on it and will now have to resort to watching some more golf. There’s some great stuff to see though and I think I’ll try and find my way to the 12th… I’m pretty sure I turn left at the main roundabout and keep going straight until I hit it… If you don’t hear from me again, please could someone contact the British embassy. Thank you and goodbye.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?