Late birdie gives Nieves one shot lead at Latin America Am
22 Jan 2022
by Sean Melia of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Latin America Amateur Championship, Santa Maria Golf Club, Roberto Nieves Rankings

Roberto Nieves leads after the third round (Photo: Enrique Berardi)
Roberto Nieves leads after the third round (Photo: Enrique Berardi)

Roberto Nieves leads the Latin America Amateur by one shot after three rounds.

Nieves, representing Puerto Rico, started the day four behind leader Julian Perico. An excellent opening 33 with birdies on holes 2, 5, 6, and 9, put Nieves back on top. The course, which has played a bit soft due to some rain, began to firm up as the leaders made the turn. Nieves dropped two shots on the back nine, but a closing birdie on the par 5 eighteenth hole earned him a one-shot lead at 7-under par. Nieves also held a share of the lead after a first-round 66.

"It wasn't easy, every hole was a challenge today. It definitely played harder than the last two days," said Nieves. "I took my medicine on the tough holes, but I left myself in spots where I wouldn't get a big number."

The term “moving day” might be a cliche, but for Brazil’s Fred Biondi it was a reality on Saturday. He improved bettered his second round 75 by ten shots with a 65, moving him into second place behind Nieves. His score was three shots better than the next best round on Saturday.

Biondi, a junior at Florida, arrived at the sixth tee even par for his round and one-over par for the tournament. As the players ahead of him either treaded water or fell back, Biondi went on a birdie binge and played his final 13 holes in 7-under par. Three straight birdies on holes 6, 7, and 8 primed him for a four birdie back nine 32.

"I like this course in multiple ways and I think you can't really fake it around here," Biondi said "It's always windy."

Nieves will have his work cut out for him on Sunday, as the group at five under have proved themselves a steady consistent bunch with the ability to go low. Segundo Oliva Pinto fired an opening round 66, Santiago De La Fuente shot a 67 in round two, and Vicente Marzilio shot 68 on in the first round.

Second-round leader Perico had a tough day on Teeth of the Dog. Double bogeys on holes nine, 12, and 13 allowed the chasing pack to catch and then pass Perico. However, even after a disappointing 80, he is still only six shots back. Playing from behind, with the pressure on the leaders, could be beneficial.

“This is the coolest thing ever. I couldn’t have dreamt to be in this position,” Nieves told John Sutcliffe following his round. “It’s exactly where you want to be. I feel like I’ve played pretty well and I’m just really happy to be able to represent Puerto Rico, and hopefully I can give it a shot tomorrow.

Nieves will lean on some mental strength down the stretch on Sunday. "Being a phycology major has helped me a lot," the University of Delaware student said, "I have different things I do on the course, different breathing techniques, trying to keep my mind quiet. It's helpful." Without any rain in the forecast and a high in the upper 80s, the Teeth of the Dog will be a wonderful proving ground on Sunday for Nieves and the rest of the field. There are 12 players within six shots of the lead. The talent among them is immense, but the winner will have to dig deep both mentally and physically to win.

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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