Ivan Ramirez of Colombia (LAAC photo)
Ivan Camilo Ramirez overcame a bumpy start to turn in a sparkling 3-under-par 68 on Thursday, taking the lead after round one of the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) at El Camaleón Golf Club. Chileans Lukas Roessler and Gabriel Morgan Birke are tied for second place, two strokes back at 1 under.
Ramirez, a 22-year-old Colombian, bogeyed two of his first three holes but then caught fire in the middle of his round. Five birdies in a seven-hole stretch rocketed him to the top of the leader board and he parred his final seven holes to claim the 18-hole lead on a day so blustery that only three players in the field broke par.
The spark for Ramirez’s round came on the par-5 fifth hole. After hitting his second shot just over the green, Ramirez chipped back and made a tricky 12-footer for his first birdie of the day.
“With that putt, I felt like something good was coming,” Ramirez said. “The putter kept me in the round.”
Ramirez, who has played in all five previous editions of the LAAC, credited his comfort at El Camaleón in part to a series of practice rounds that he and his Colombian teammates played earlier this month at TPC Cartagena – a course with similar grass and wind. He also said that playing his college golf at Texas Tech University was a benefit, as he learned to deal with Texas’s ever-present breezes.
“I feel like I have all the shots in my bag,” he said.
Unlike Ramirez, who was among the final players on the course, Birke and Roessler teed off in the morning. Roessler, at just 15 years of age, is one of the youngest players in the field but is quite familiar with the LAAC all the same as his older brother, Toto Gana, was the 2017 champion at Club de Golf de Panama.
Roessler was steady for most the round, birdieing two holes on the front nine and then chipping in for birdie on the 11th before stumbling just a bit on his way in with bogeys on the 12th and 14th. Birke’s experience was similar, as he started on the 10th and played his first 14 holes in 3 under only to bogey Nos. 6 and 7.
Birke said he was not surprised that many players struggled to figure out the winds that whipped through the course because the directions were often the opposite of what they were during the players’ practice rounds.
“What surprises me most is that the tournament here, when it’s played on the PGA Tour, they win with scores of 22 under par,” Birke said. “I have no idea how they could accomplish that.”
Mexico’s Aaron Terrazas led the charge for the host country, finishing in a tie for fourth following a 1-over-par 72.
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
The LAAC champion annually receives an invitation
to compete in the Masters at Augusta National Golf
Club, and the the British Open Championship. In
addition, the winner and the runner(s)-up
are exempt into the final stages of qualifying for the
US Open Championship. The
is also awarded full exemptions into The Amateur
Championship, the US Amateur Championship and
any other USGA amateur championship for which he
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