Steve Whyno / Canadian Press
MARKHAM, Ont. — Colombia got the rare chance to celebrate as a team on the 18th green after winning all three gold medals at the Pan Am Games’ inaugural golf tournament on Sunday.
Marcelo Rozo shot 13-under to win the men’s competition, while teammate Mariajo Uribe went 9-under to capture the women’s gold. Colombia blew away the field for the mixed team gold.
Uribe held up the yellow, blue and red Colombian flag on the hill above the 18th hole at Angus Glen Golf Club and then, along with teammates Mateo Gomez and Paola Moreno, doused Rozo with water after he finished the final round.
“At the end having all them on the 18th green hugging each other, making Colombia proud, it was pretty special,” said Rozo, who tied the course record Saturday with a 9-under 63. “Golf is not a team sport. Once you get that kind of feeling, you get excited.”
Rozo finished a stroke ahead of Argentine Tommy Cocha and Chilean Felipe Aguilar. Cocha won a two-hole playoff to earn silver, as Aguilar got bronze.
Canada’s Austin Connelly, a Dallas native with Nova Scotian roots, shot his fourth-consecutive subpar round to finish fifth at 8-under for the tournament. Connelly said having three medals instead of just first place to shoot for “brings another level of pressure.”
“It’s a much different experience than any other golf tournament I’ve ever played,” Connelly said.
Canada’s Austin Connelly (Anil Mungal/ Golf Canada)
American Andrea Lee won women’s silver and Paraguay’s Julieta Granada bronze. The United States, which leads the medal count, won team silver and Argentina bronze.
Golf made its Pan Am debut a year before returning to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for the first time since 1904.
“It’s pretty big for golf,” Rozo said. “This is a great step looking to that.”
Rozo gets a spot in next week’s RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont., as another prize for winning gold. It’ll be his first PGA Tour event.
While the 25-year-old is still trying to make his way into Olympic contention, Uribe is right in the thick of it for Rio. She was smiling thinking about that and reflecting on triple gold at the Pan Ams.
“Colombia is not a team that gets a lot of medals, so it really matters to us,” said Uribe, who earned an exemption into the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open next month in Vancouver. “It’s fun… I’m getting ready for the Olympics.”
Golf Canada is getting ready for the Olympics, too. The Pan Am Games being on home soil represents progress toward that goal.
“To get this experience to prepare us for Rio and the Olympics next year, you can’t get that experience anywhere else,” Golf Canada CEO Scott Simmons said. “This is really going to help us.
“It’s helped the players, it’s helped the coaches, it’s helped our support staff. That’s probably the biggest benefit coming out of this week for us.”
After Connelly, Canadians Garrett Rank finished 15th in the men’s competition at 5-over and Lorie Kane tied for 19th at 23-over in the women’s event. Canada was eighth out of 16 countries in the team competition.
But federal sports minister Bal Gosal said all the feedback he has gotten from visitors has been positive. Angus Glen turned out to be a fitting reintroduction for the sport on an international stage.
“This venue, everything’s been great,” Gosal said. “(Visitors are) very happy with the course, they’re very happy with the fairways. … It’s been great.”
A rough stretch aside, Connelly got to enjoy a final round in the last group with a throng of hundreds of fans following. When the 18-year-old chipped in for an impressive par save on the sixth hole, he heard one of the biggest cheers of the day as the Canadian star on the course.
“It was hard to describe,” Connelly said. “The roar was incredible. It’s just nice having so many people behind me.”