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Ortiz Leads a Tight Race at Latin America Amateur
Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico and the University of Arkansas has a narrow 54-hole lead<br>(LAAC photo)
Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico and the University of Arkansas has a narrow 54-hole lead
(LAAC photo)

Report by the Latin American Amateur Championship

SANTIAGO, CHILE (January 22, 2018) - Alvaro Ortiz, of Mexico, takes a one-shot lead into the final round of the 2018 Latin America Amateur Championship at Prince of Wales Country Club tomorrow.

With a place in the Masters Tournament at stake, Ortiz moved to four-under-par for the championship and leads by one over a group of four contenders, including defending champion Toto Gana and his fellow Chilean and world No. 1-ranked amateur Joaquin Niemann. Also at three-under-par are Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola, the 36-hole leader, and Daniel Gurtner, of Guatemala.

Related: Latin American Amateur: Niemann Makes His Move
Related: Latin American Amateur: Final Masters Invite on the Line

In a tightly packed leader board, five players sit a stroke further back – Manuel Torres (Venezuela), Gabriel Morgan Birke (Chile), Aaron Terrazas and Mario Carmona (both from Mexico) and Camilo Aguado (Colombia).

Ortiz enjoyed a great start to his third round with birdies at the third and fourth holes but slipped back with bogeys at the sixth and seventh. The 22-year-old, who lost out to Gana in the playoff at last year’s LAAC, bounced back with birdies at the 11th and 14th holes. Another shot slipped away at the 17th before an impressive par save on 18, which resulted in a one-under-par round of 70.

"Literally, I’ve been thinking about [winning] all year long," said Ortiz. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don’t want the emotions to get the better of me. What I’ve learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course."

Rivarola struggled to reproduce the same form as yesterday. A costly double-bogey six at the 17th left him two-over for the day.

"All I’m really trying to do is beat the golf course," said Rivarola, describing the challenge of the crowded leaderboard and the advantage the crowds are giving the Chilean contenders. "At the end of the day, whoever beats the golf course by the most shots, wins. I’m not looking to go win this right out of the gate, but I’m just trying to beat the golf course hole‑by‑hole, and I know if I do that in a good manner, I can really have a chance. I’m not going to go at every pin out there tomorrow because that’s not the way to play this golf course. There’s all sorts of ways to play it, and what I’m going to do is just keep on with my strategy that I’ve been using these three days and try to be a little bit more precise."
In a tougher day for scoring, Gana also had an untidy finish with two dropped shots in his last three holes on his way to a one-over-par 72.

“It was a very difficult day, and I didn’t start the day the way I wanted because I hit a very bad tee shot on the first hole," said Gana. "That kind of diminished the confidence that I had for the day. But from the ninth hole, I was able to hit the ball really well, and the rest of the round. There were a lot of people following us, which surprising because it’s a working day. Tomorrow I hope we have more people coming and supporting us. It’s good for me and I believe Joaquin (Niemann) must feel the same way.”

Niemann, who also featured in the playoff in Panama last year, matched his compatriot’s round after a bogey at the par-four 18th.

"I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven‑under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," said Niemann. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round. The golf course had some tricky hole positions, but in the end, I believe that I could have shot a low score. The truth is that I missed a lot of fairways, I was out of position, and by the time that I was able to hit the greens, I didn’t make the putts."

Gurtner, a red-shirt junior at Texas Christian University, started his round at one-under-par, four strokes off the leader, and he made a move with three birdies on the front nine. He sandwiched a birdie at the 16th with dropped shots at the 15th and the 18th to finish with a 69 on three under par.

"This is some new territory for me," said Gurtner. "I’ve never been in this position in any tournament of this caliber. I’ve had some good tournaments in the States, but never been more excited. I feel like everyone’s going to be nervous [tomorrow]. I’m not the only one who is going to feel those nerves. I’ve got no expectations. I’ve just got to play my own game and have a lot of fun."

Exemptions for Champion and Runner(s)-up:

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to compete in the 2018 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, as well as full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible. In addition, the winner and the runner(s)-up will be exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The 147th Open at Carnoustie and the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills.

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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