Ximena Benites sets the pace in Amateur Women's Latin America Championship
Ximena Benites leads the Women's Amateur Latin America championship by one shot after the first round (R&A)
Ximena Benites leads the Women's Amateur Latin America championship by one shot after the first round (R&A)

Peru’s Ximena Benites leads the way after the first round of the Women’s Amateur Latin America championship presented by The R&A and ANNIKA Foundation.

The 16-year-old defied the tough, windy conditions that persisted over the Blue and White course at Pilar Golf to post an impressive two-under-par 70, which included four birdies in five holes on the back nine.

The Peruvian is being closed following by a chasing pack of six players who sit one shot further back at 1-under par. The group includes Valentina Rossi, Maria Morales, Vanessa Gilly, Daniela Ballesteros and Mexican duo Ana Isabel Gonzalez and Lauren Daiana Olivares.

“I felt like I played a very good round today and even though I made a couple of mistakes, I was able to post a good score,” said Benites.

Benites set a game plan for the day. “I very much followed a game plan today and my putting was crucial, especially as the greens at Pilar Golf are difficult," she said. "They are undulating so you really need to think carefully about where to aim the ball."

The young Peruvian knows that she needs to stay in the moment and remain relaxed. “I felt relaxed today and think that was important to how I played and the score of 70. I also enjoyed a good practice round yesterday so I was confident about my game," Benites said. "I need to keep playing the same way for the rest of the week.”

Hopes of a home win currently rest with Rossi, who reached the semi-finals of the US Women’s Amateur Championship last year and is a former Argentina Women’s Amateur champion.

The 21-year-old endured a difficult start to the round with back-to-back bogeys on the 5th and 6th holes but finished strongly on the back nine where she made eagle on the par-5 13th and birdies on hole Nos. 16 and 18.

“I didn’t start the round as I wanted after making two bogeys but was happy with the two birdies that I made at the end of the round,” said Rossi. “I had to be patient during the round due to the wind and if I can improve my performance around the greens then I think I can do well this week.”

Gilly, who won her national amateur and match play championships in Venezuela this year, played steady golf, mixing four birdies and three bogeys on her way to an opening 71.

“My round was pretty solid and I remained consistent in how I was hitting the ball,” she said. "With the strong wind, it was pretty tough out there but I was able to put most of the shots where I wanted on the fairways. The greens are difficult with the pin positions and undulating greens but I think I coped well with them.”

Four players, including Sofia Clarisa Temelo, Michelle Melandri, Maria Fernada Martinez and Valentina Bosselmann shot 72 to finish a shot further back on level par.

Maria Jose Negrete the runner-up in last year’s championship, finished three shots off the pace although the Colombian remains very much in contention to go one better than her finish in 2021.

The Women’s Amateur Latin America championship presented by The R&A and the ANNIKA Foundation follows the successful introduction of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship by The R&A in 2018. Its aim is to strengthen the pathway to the very highest levels of golf by providing a platform for the region’s best women’s amateur golfers to compete against each other.

The winner of the Women’s Amateur Latin America championship will earn exemptions into three major championships, including the AIG Women’s Open, Amundi Evian Championship and The Chevron Championship, as well as the Women’s Amateur Championship and the Hilton Grand Vacations ANNIKA Invitational presented by Rolex.

Results: Women's Latin America Amateur
1ArgentinaValentina RossiArgentina100071-71-68-69=279
2ColombiaMaria Jose MarinColombia70073-65-68-74=280
3PeruDaniela BallesterosPeru50071-72-74-66=283
4MexicoVania SimontMexico50074-70-70-70=284
5VenezuelaVanessa GillyVenezuela50071-67-78-70=286

View full results for Women's Latin America Amateur

ABOUT THE Women's Latin America Amateur

Introduced in 2021, this tournament was created by the R&A and the ANNIKA Foundation. The 72-hole stroke play event will have a select field of 60 players, with invitations given based on World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). The winner will receive an exemption into the Women's British Open.

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