Oliva Pinto and Nieves both fire 66 and grab LAAC lead
Segundo Oliva Pinto of Arkansas shares the first round lead at the LAAC
Segundo Oliva Pinto of Arkansas shares the first round lead at the LAAC

Segundo Oliva Pinto and Roberto Nieves both sit atop the Latin America Amateur after splendid 66s in the opening round. Nieves, from Puerto Rico, finished his day with an impressive 32 on his back nine after starting on the tenth hole. Oliva Pinto played a bogey-free round in freshening afternoon winds.

With impressive rounds of 68, Vicente-Marzilio, Andrey-Borges, and Martín León lead the chasing pack.

Martín León set the tone in the morning wave with a 32 on his opening nine holes. He made the turn and birdied the first hole to get to 5-under par. The freshman from Utah is the reigning Utah state amateur champion and has collected a fair share of victories including the 2017 South American Junior championship.

“The wind was strong. Hole number five through hole number eight, I was nervous on the tee.” León said following his round. His nerves might have led to his three bogeys on his back nine.

There was a lot of buzz about the five Arkansas Razorback contingent that arrived at Teeth of the Dog this week. Along with first round leader Segundo Oliva Pinto, Mateo-Fernandez-de-Oliveira, Manuel-Lozada, Julian-Perico, Juan Camilo Vesga all had impressive opening rounds; they all shot even par or better.

Oliva Pinto started his round on hole 10 and got off to a strong start with birdies on holes 11 and 12. He then closed his front nine with a birdie on the par-5, 18th hole. He began his back nine as he did the front with birdies on holes 2 and 3. He added his sixth birdie of the day the par-4, 6th hole before closing his round with three pars.

“I was feeling very comfortable,” Oliva Pinto said. “I was comfortable last week in the South American Amateur. This week, I brought a lot of good feelings from there. There’s always a possibility to go lower, a couple putts that lipped out, but, I mean, it is what it is. I played good and I took my chances. I’m happy with what I did.”

As the day wore on, the wind picked up at Teeth of the Dog, giving the beautiful course more bite for the afternoon wave. Leon and de Oliveira took advantage of the calmer conditions, and so did Mid-Am stalwart Jeronimo-Esteve who shot a 69. Esteve is coming off a victory at The Devil’s Elbow in November, which gave him an exemption into the PGA Tour’s Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.

The oldest champion of the LAAC is Matias Dominguez, who won the inaugural event at age 23. Esteve, at 40, would make quite the winner if he continues his solid play for 54 more holes.

In a text message, Esteve wrote, “The course has a double bogey on every shot and requires big commitment. I need to keep sending it and wherever the ball ends up it ends up.”

Esteve also mentioned trying to block out the noise that comes with this big of an event. Berths in The Masters and US Open are sure to spin around in every player’s mind this week as they continue to battle the challenging and beautiful Teeth of the Dog.

Arkansas Athletic Communications contributed to this report.

Results: Latin America Amateur
1Cayman IslandsAaron JarvisCayman Islands120070-69-73-69=281
T2ArgentinaMateo Fernandez de OliveiraArgentina90069-72-73-68=282
T2ArgentinaVicente MarzilioArgentina90068-71-72-71=282
T2BrazilFred BiondiBrazil90070-75-65-72=282
T2MexicoSantiago De La FuenteMexico90072-67-72-71=282

View full results for Latin America Amateur

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, the U.S. Open and the British Open. 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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