By Christina Lance, USGA
MIAMI, Fla. (Jan. 3, 2013) -- Argentina holds an overall two-stroke lead over Colombia and the United States of America following Thursday’s opening round of the 2013 Copa de las Americas, being conducted on the par-72 TPC Blue Monster Course at Doral Golf Resort & Spa Miami.
The Argentines returned a four-person score of 5-over 293, with Colombia and the USA at 7-over 295. Mexico is fourth at 10-over 298, while Canada rounds out the top five at 12-over 300.
In the men’s competition, the Colombian team of Ricardo Jose Celia (70) and Carlos Ernesto Rodriguez (71) shot 3-under 141 and holds a four-stroke lead over Mexico and a five-stroke margin over Argentina and the USA.
On the women’s side, Argentina’s Maria Olivero (72) and Delfina Acosta (75) tied the Canadian contingent of Brooke Mackenzie Henderson (71) and Augusta James (76) atop the leader board with a total of 3-over 147, two strokes ahead of the USA and six ahead of Mexico.
The 2013 Copa de las Americas, conducted by the Americas Golf Association and hosted by the United States Golf Association, is a team event for amateurs in North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. It consists of three 72-hole stroke-play competitions – overall, men and women – that will conclude on Sunday.
Colombia’s Celia went to the par-3 ninth (his final hole of the day) at four under on his round, having carded four birdies in his first 10 holes. However, a double bogey reduced his team’s advantage to four.
“It was a good round, but I’m not happy because I made a double on the last,” said Celia, who attends Nova Southeastern University in nearby Fort Lauderdale but had never played the Blue Monster until this week.
However, Celia was able to look beyond the personal disappointment and enjoy the team experience.
“Playing as a team is one of the biggest honors, to represent our country in the United States,” said Celia. “We’re not representing ourselves. We’re playing for our home country.”
The day’s low individual score came from Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz, who shot 4-under 68, which ties him with three players for the second-lowest first-round score in Copa history.
“I hit a lot of greens,” said Ortiz, the Sun Belt Conference’s three-time player of the year at the University of North Texas. “I was hitting the ball pretty close, so I felt pretty comfortable.”
Also bolstering Ortiz’s confidence was his familiarity with the Blue Monster, which he was playing for an estimated seventh time. “Knowing the golf course makes it a little bit easier,” he said with a smile.
Ortiz was also at ease due to his teammate, Rodolfo Cazaubon, whom he has known for 10 years. Not only are they North Texas teammates, the pair joined with Sebastian Vasquez to take second place at last October’s World Amateur Team Championship in Antalya, Turkey.
“I’m used to playing with him, on the North Texas team and the Mexico team,” said Ortiz. “I feel pretty comfortable with him.”
Henderson, of Canada, was the lone female player to return a subpar score, 1-under 71.
“It’s a beautiful course and I just enjoyed playing it,” said the 15-year-old Henderson, who won on the Canadian Women’s Tour in 2012. “I was striking the ball well, which helped. I missed a few short putts, but overall, it was a great day.”
Henderson pointed to a 20-foot downhill birdie putt at the par-4 17th as the key moment of her round.
“I was just thinking get it in two and I’d be happy! So that helped my round,” she said.
Henderson, the second-youngest player in this week’s field, is 24 years younger than the 39-year-old Olivero, the oldest participant. Olivero, a stay-at-home mother to two young children, is making the most of her third Copa appearance, opening with an even-par 72 to help propel her country to the front of the pack.
“To be able to represent my country, even though I am 39, it’s great,” said Olivero, who has played in 11 Women’s World Amateur Team Championships and is a nine-time Argentine Match Play and Stroke Play champion. “The thing is that when you get older, you can think better. It’s not the same head you had at 18.
“My priorities are different. My kids, my family, my house. I can take this with no pressure at all, so I can enjoy it.”
The USA Team struggled to find momentum in the brisk winds that buffeted the Blue Monster. World No. 1 Chris Williams returned the team’s low score at 1-under 71. Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox shot 3-over 75. Erynne Lee, who reached the quarterfinals at the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur, stood at 1-over 73, while 2012 USA Curtis Cup Team member Lindy Duncan struggled to a 4-over 76.
Edward Figueroa, of Puerto Rico, made his fifth career hole-in-one at the 220-yard fourth hole. Figueroa, who attends Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, won the 2012 Puerto Rico Junior Open and earned a berth in the PGA Tour’s 2012 Puerto Rico Open.