Alvaro Ortiz, Toto Gana share 54-hole Latin America Amateur lead
Toto Gana watches the opening tee shot of his third round <br>(LAAC Photo)
Toto Gana watches the opening tee shot of his third round
(LAAC Photo)

PANAMA CITY, Panama (January 14, 2017) -- A 2017 Masters invitation all comes down to 18-holes on Sunday at the Latin America Amateur.

Seven players will begin Sunday's final round within four-strokes of the 54-hole lead but in the drivers seat at 2-under it will be the duo of Alvaro Ortiz and Toto Gana.

Of the two sharing the lead Mexico's Ortiz made the biggest third round move on a windy day at Club de Golf de Panama with a 3-under 67. Ortiz, a junior at Arkansas, kick started his round with a 2nd hole birdie and an eagle on the par-5 4th to reach 1-under for the tournament. A bogey followed on No. 7 but so did back-to-back birdies on the 13rd and 14th holes that brought Ortiz to 3-under. Coming home, Ortiz who tied for third at the 2015 Latin America Amateur, dropped one more shot with a bogey on No. 17.

“My day went very smoothly from the beginning – I made a birdie and an eagle in the first four holes,” said Ortiz, who has represented Mexico in the last two World Amateur Team Championships. “But on the seventh hole, the wind came up and that changed my strategy a little bit. I started playing for the middle of the green.”

Chile's Toto Gana birdied his first two holes on his way to a 1-under 69 and his second under-par round of the week. Gana also rolled in birdies on the 15th and 17th holes, while giving back strokes throughout the round with three bogeys.

“I’m very happy – it was a very solid round,” said Gana, who missed the cut in the 2016 LAAC at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. “I’m trusting my swing, and the most important thing is that my head is in a good place. I’m going to play with my friend Joaquin and it will be a battle between the two of us.”

Joaquín Niemann of Chile, ranked fifth in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, more than put himself into the final round picture thanks to a third round bogey-free 3-under 67. Niemann was eight-strokes back after the final round and has been busy chipping away since. When the highest-ranked player in the field tees off on Sunday he will be in third place at 1-under and one shot behind.

The first birdie of the day for Niemann came on No. 2, which was quickly followed by a 4th hole birdie. After seven consecutive pars Niemann carded his final birdie of the day on the 12th.

Colombia's Nicolas Echavarria and 48-year-old Costa Rican Alvaro E. Ortiz are tied for fourth at even-par while Panama's Miguel Ordoñez and Peru's Julian Périco are 1-over and tied for sixth.

Ortiz, Gana and Niemann will make up the final pairing set to tee off at 9:50 a.m. EST. Live streaming coverage will be available beginning at 1 p.m.

-Editors Note: The LAAC contributed to this story

Results For Latin America Amateur Championship
1ChileTomas GanaChile100068-71-69-71=279
T2MexicoAlvaro OrtizMexico70071-70-67-71=279
T2ChileJoaquin NiemannChile70072-70-67-70=279
T4PeruJulian PericoPeru50064-75-72-69=280
T4Costa RicaAlvaro E. OrtizCosta Rica50071-66-73-70=280

View full results for Latin America Amateur Championship

ABOUT THE Latin America Amateur

Founded by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and the USGA, the LAAC was established to further develop amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The LAAC is a 72-hole stroke play event open to a field of 108 amateur players in Latin America, chosen by their respective national federations according to their World Amateur Golf Ranking. Past winners of the championship, as well as last year’s top-five finishers, are automatically entered into this year’s championship.

The LAAC champion annually receives an invitation to compete in the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. In addition, the winner and the runner(s)-up are exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the US Open Championship. The champion is also awarded full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, the US Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible.

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