The Spirit Golf Association extends a warm welcome to Segundo Oliva Pinto, representing Team Argentina. From UNC Wilmington to the University of Arkansas, Segundo has achieved noteworthy success. Read our interview with Segundo as he prepares for the 2021 Spirit International.
The Spirit: You have represented Argentina’s national team since high school, but you also played soccer in your early days. When did you know you wanted to pursue golf over soccer?
Segundo: Growing up I played multiple sports. I mostly competed in soccer and tennis. At the age of 13, I started to travel to most junior national events and when I was 14, I decided golf was what I liked and since then I worked towards having a future in the sport.
The Spirit: How much belief in your game did you gain from making it to the round of 32 at the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur?
Segundo: The 2020 U.S. Amateur was an amazing experience. It was one of the first times playing golf on global television. It made me realize that no matter what anyone said, I was ready to compete with the best amateurs in the world.
The Spirit: While still in high school, you finished 19th at the Dogwood Amateur. Typically, the best college players in the world are fighting for a Top 20 finish there. What was the experience like finishing that high in a high-profile amateur event while still in high school?
Segundo: The Dogwood Invitational was the first amateur event I played in the United States. Unlike many Americans, I was brought in late to compete in the big stage of amateur golf. Finishing in the Top 20 was incredible for me and my dad who came with me to America. We had an amazing summer.
The Spirit: You started your college career at UNC Wilmington. What went into your decision to play there?
Segundo: I started at UNWC because they played a good schedule and had good practice facilities. I was told by the coaches that I was going to be a starter right away and that gave me a lot of motivation. I also wanted to surf in my free time and a school by the beach definitely helped with that.
The Spirit: You made an immediate impact, earning Colonial Athletic Association rookie of the year after winning the conference championship. Where did you find that confidence as a freshman?
Segundo: Winning the CAA Conference was my biggest achievement at the time. My teammates and coaches at UNWC were extremely supportive and that helped me believe in my game.
The Spirit: After your sophomore year at UNC Wilmington, you received an exemption into the U.S. Amateur. How special was it to represent Argentina in that event?
Segundo: To represent Argentina in the U.S. Amateur was amazing. As a kid, I always imagined playing in such events. Before I got to college, that dream was so distant that it didn’t even seem like a goal. Getting an invitation to play in such an amazing venue like Bandon Dunes was a blessing.
The Spirit: You transferred to University of Arkansas after your junior year. Was that a tough decision after finding so much success at Wilmington?
Segundo: Transferring from UNCW to Arkansas was definitely a tough decision. The integration process at my first university (UNCW) was pretty hard and I was afraid it would dbe the same at Arkansas. Eventually with time, things began to get better and now, I’m more motivated than I’ve ever been to compete at the highest level of amateur golf.
The Spirit: It didn’t take you long to settle in at Arkansas. You won the 2021 SEC Championship and were part of the first team All-SEC team. What type of consistency went into being one of the best players in the most competitive conference in NCAA?
Segundo: My first year at Arkansas had many ups and downs. It wasn’t easy to get used to the changes I was undergoing and it showed with bad results. Eventually, with the support of my coaches, I was able to bring out my best golf during one of the most important weeks of the year. In my opinion, when it really matters, I play my best. Many people think golf is about consistency, I like to think that it’s more about winning.
The Spirit: How special was it to receive the call that you would represent Argentina in the 2021 Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship?
Segundo: To be part of the Argentinian team for the Spirit is something that is unbelievable. So many amazing players have been part of this event and now it’s my turn. I’m excited to add my name to that list. Our mindset as a team is to go to Texas and win the whole thing.
The Spirit: How important is it for federations to continue to support team, amateur competition?
Segundo: To me, it’s very important that federations continue to help young players develop in this game. An organized federation can make a difference on many players’ futures. Argentina has had many quality players and I’m sure that more will come.