LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic — Standing on the edge of the 18th green, Aaron Jarvis of the Cayman Islands had to hold his breath more than once.
His round over, Jarvis was taking part in interviews as Santiago De la Fuente del Valle of Mexico and Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira of Argentina missed birdie putts that would have tied him for the lead at 7 under. Next, Jarvis was obsessed with the green as Brazilian Fred Biondi and Argentine Vicente Marzilio also birdied and eagle putted to reach 7 under. All of those players were ranked higher than Jarvis, who entered this week 1,669th in the world. All missed. There would be no playoffs. Jarvis had won the 2022 Latin American Amateur Championship.
“Finally, someone from the Caribbean!” said a voice from the Caribbean contingent that had gathered around Jarvis, who had been followed by cameras as soon as his tour was over.
“Bro, he’s going to the Masters,” said Jamaican Justin Burrowes.
Not just at the Masters, but also at the St. Andrews Open and the US Amateur.
Another official from Trinidad and Tobago visited Jarvis and reminded him of how far he had come.
“I still remember 11 the last time you played here!” he said.
The official turned to Jarvis’ father, Robin, and repeated himself, referring to Jarvis’ LAAC debut at Casa de Campo in 2019, where he shot an 11 on one hole and finished 50th .
As Jarvis ran his hands through his hair and said, “Oh my God,” his dad couldn’t believe it either.
“Not even in my wildest dreams,” said Robin Jarvis.
Aaron Jarvis’ mother, Lana, who is a teacher, couldn’t take time off from work to attend the tournament, so Robin called her and related what Aaron was up to as he moved around the ceremonies after the victory.
“I knew I was better than my ranking,” Jarvis, a freshman at UNLV, said after his final round 69. “I just haven’t played enough tournaments to improve my ranking. I hope now it will go up after this victory.”
The 19-year-old’s journey to the podium began in 2013, when the Cayman Islands had the opportunity to host the Caribbean World Junior Championships, despite having no junior team. The area attracted a wide range of athletes interested in golf, and Aaron’s brother, Andrew, was part of the team. At the time, Aaron was a football player for the Cayman Islands U-13 team, but his interest was piqued when his older brother took up golf.
“He wanted to beat his brother,” Robin said. Andrew didn’t turn professional, but he now has a 5 handicap and his entry into golf sparked Aaron’s passion for the sport. As Aaron grew up and had to decide whether he should choose football or golf, Robin noticed that the decision was easy.
“He was more passionate about it,” Robin said.
In the final round, that passion paid off, but not before a few hurdles had to be overcome.
The little birdie putt that Jarvis drained on 18 that no one else could match was the highlight of the victory, but the two moments that perhaps cemented the championship for him came earlier in the day. After doubling on the par-4 ninth, Jarvis bounced back with a par-10 and birdies on the 11-12. Then on the par-3 16, after hitting his ball in the water, he rolled in a long putt to recover a bogey to limit the damage.
“If you’re right next to him, you realize how confident he is,” UNLV coach AJ McInerney said. “He has the ability to have a short memory and put everything that happened in the previous hole behind him.”
Jarvis was McInerney’s first verbal engagement after taking over the program last year. Through golf instructor Andy Leadbetter, whom Jarvis trained with during his final two years of high school in Orlando, Florida, McInerney was able to get in touch with Jarvis and sell him on UNLV.
On Sunday, more than 3,000 miles away in Southern California, a van full of UNLV golfers on their way to a college tournament watched the latest putts on their phones. As the final putt was missed and Jarvis officially won, they all exploded with joy.
“He has one of the most infectious personalities I’ve ever been around,” McInerney said of Jarvis’ relationship with his teammates and coaches. He is the only Latin American player on the team. “It’s hard not to smile when you’re around him.”
As Jarvis entered the press conference on Sunday with a gold medal around his neck, his smile and friendliness were indeed effortless, although he seemed a little intimidated by the lights.
“How is my hair? ” He asked. “Am I just going up there?”
Someone appeared with a club sandwich and fries. His eyes lit up. Water was poured into a wine glass. It was a reminder that he was, after all that, only 19 years old.
After answering questions, Jarvis received his first assignment as an LAAC champion. He spent the next few minutes signing the Masters, Open and US Open flags before walking out and beginning his celebration.
As her father Robin joked, “We may not catch our flight tomorrow.”