Holding a four-shot lead at the start of the day, Kevin Velo knew his road to an eventual victory at the 2022 Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational wasn’t going to be easy. He expected a challenge, and he was challenged. A triple-bogey 8 at the par-five No. 9 left him one shot back, but he kept his head up and fought his way back to the top for a one-shot victory. He birdied three of the last five holes, including the last, to card a 1-over 73 and finish at 18-under for the week.
Argentina’s Jorge Fernández Valdés and Tommy Cocha shared runner-up honors. This happened to be the third top-2 of the season for Fernández Valdés, who strengthened his lead atop the Totalplay Cup and the Zurich Argentina Swing standings.
“It’s hard to put it into words right now. It was an incredible week. I played awesome golf, and even though I shot 73, it was an awesome week. I’m very excited to be the champion and I’m excited for what’s coming up,” said Velo, who earned 500 Totalplay Cup points to charge into a tie for third in the season-long race to move up to the Korn Ferry Tour.
Velo’s four-shot lead was shortened to two early, with Fernández Valdés going birdie-birdie-birdie off the gate. The lead remained at two until they reached the par-five No. 9, a 569-yard par-5 with hazard trouble all the way to the right. Velo hit two balls into the hazard, first off the tee and later from a greenside bunker. He walked away with an 8, dropping to 17-under to trail Fernández Valdés by one.
“I made number 9 a lot harder than it had to be. Two balls in the hazard created a nice little piece of adversity for me,” said Velo, who kept a great attitude throughout a week in which he led or shared the lead after every round. “I kept telling myself the entire day, something is going to pop up and that was kind of what popped up for me. I was able to bounce back and get myself motivated again.
“I was in the right mental headspace the entire week, and it kind of continued. The 8 didn’t really get me down. I saw my friends on the tenth tee and I (thought that) if I was going to be here, one shot back with nine holes to play, I would have paid somebody a lot of money for that.”
He bogeyed the 10th hole, but so did the Argentine. With Fernández Valdés at 17-under and Velo at 16-under, several other players were suddenly in the mix. Actually, three others – Austin Hitt, Tommy Cocha, and David Pastore – claimed the lead or a piece of it over the remaining eight holes, but Velo overpowered them all by birdieing 14 and 15 to take a two-shot lead. A bogey on 17 shortened his lead to one, but he kept his composure, making a great up-and-down for the clinching birdie at the last.
“I definitely let a lot more people in,” admitted Velo. “Golf is hard, so there’s going to be times (when) you are going to struggle and that was my time, that was the first time all week that I really struggled. That was a big mental hurdle for me in the past, and I had succumbed to it. It’s great to push past that and be able to get some birdies down the stretch. Birdieing the 18th hole after a bogey on 17 was pretty big for me.”
Exempt to play the first half of the season after tying for eighth at last November’s PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Q-School at Mission Inn Resort, Velo was starting to worry about the upcoming reshuffle. That’s no longer a concern, as the win secures him full status and a chance to move up to the Korn Ferry Tour through the Totalplay Cup standings.
“The Totalplay Cup is such an important part of the game we play down in Latin America, so being able to gain this 500 points is huge. Not only for this season but being able to possibly graduate to the Korn Ferry Tour,” added the man who now joins fellow American Matt Ryan in a tie for third in the Totalplay Cup standings, 511 points behind Fernández Valdés.
Kevin Velo’s position after each round of the Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational:
Round 1: Shot 6-under 66 to share the lead with Tommy Cocha.
Round 2: Shot 5-under 67 to take the outright lead by one.
Round 3: Shot a tournament-low 8-under 64 to extend his lead to four shots.
Round 4: Shot 1-over 73 for a one-shot victory.
Kevin Velo won the Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational at age 24 years, 6 months, 21 days. He was born on September 6, 1997, in Redwood City, California.
Kevin Velo was making the fourth start of his rookie season on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. In addition to claiming his first Tour title, he made his first cut of the season.
This was Kevin Velo’s second victory as a professional player, but his first in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned Tour. He won the Outlaw Tour’s Match Play Championship this past January in Arizona.
Born and raised in California, Kevin Velo has deep Hispanic roots. His father was born and raised in Spain, while his mom is half Cuban, half Irish. “I absolutely love the Latin culture. Being down here is awesome for me. This was one of the things I wanted to do, traveling South America. I don’t think I would have that opportunity without this Tour,” said Velo, who despite not being fully fluent in Spanish manages to navigate the language barrier quite well.
As winner of the second of three Zurich Argentina Swing events, Kevin Velo is now in position to give Jorge Fernández Valdés a run for the title of the competition that concludes this coming week at the Abierto del Centro Memorial Eduardo “Gato” Romero presented by Telecom. In the competition showcasing the trio of PGA TOUR Latinoamérica events in Argentina, Velo trails the local by 245 points. Fernández Valdés has earned 745 Zurich Argentina Swing points and he remains the favorite to walk away with the $10,000 bonus from Zurich. Only four players—Velo, Jeremy Gandon, Rak Cho, and Tommy Cocha—can mathematically catch Fernández Valdés.
Zurich Argentina Swing Standings
(Through the 2022 Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational)
|1||Jorge Fernández Valdés (Argentina)||745|
|2||Kevin Velo (U.S.)||500|
|3||Jeremy Gandon (France)||345|
|4||Rak Cho (South Korea)||280|
|5||Tommy Cocha (Argentina)||245|
|6||Nicolo Galletti (U.S.)||175|
|7||Austin Hitt (U.S.)||155|
|8||Camilo Aguado (Colombia)||154|
|9||David Pastore (U.S.)||144|
|10||Alex Scott (U.S.)||130|
Starting the day as solo second, Jorge Fernández Valdés carded a 2-under 70 in Sunday’s final round to tie for second, at 17-under. The 29-year old from Cordoba, Argentina, increased his Totalplay Cup points total to 1,011 to remain atop the standings for the fourth consecutive tournament week. Not ranked after missing the cut in his first three starts of the season, Kevin Velo earned 500 points for his win to move into a tie for third. The following are the Totalplay Cup top-10 players after the fourth of 12 events on the 2021-22 schedule:
Totalplay Cup Standings
(Through the 2022 Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational)
|1||Jorge Fernández Valdés (Argentina)||1,011|
|2||Alan Wagner (Argentina)||621|
|T3||Matt Ryan (U.S.)||500|
|T3||Kevin Velo (U.S.)||500|
|5||Jeremy Gandon (France)||409|
|6||Mitchell Meissner (U.S.)||392|
|7||Cristóbal Del Solar (Chile)||351|
|8||Chandler Blanchet (U.S.)||345|
|9||Rak Cho (South Korea)||280|
|10||Tommy Cocha (Argentina)||266|
Thirty-two Argentine players saw action this week. Eight survived the cut, and this is how they finished the tournament:
|T2||Jorge Fernández Valdés||271 (-17)|
|T2||Tommy Cocha||271 (-17)|
|T13||César Costilla||276 (-12)|
|T23||Ignacio Marino||278 (-10)|
|T29||Leandro Marelli||279 (-9)|
|T36||Andrés Gallegos||280 (-8)|
|T41||Puma Domínguez||281 (-7)|
|T44||Ricardo González||284 (-4)|
Final-Round Weather: Sunny and clear. High of 91. Variable winds at 12-20 mph.