Joaquin Niemann wins LAAC and earns Masters start

The Chilean fired a superb final round of 63 at the Prince of Wales CC in Santiago

Joaquin Niemann wins LAAC
Joaquin Niemann wins LAAC
(Image credit: LAAC)

Joaquin Niemann of Chile fired a spectacular final round 63 to win the Latin America Amateur Championship at the Prince of Wales CC in Santiago, Chile. The World’s Number 1 amateur golfer, Niemann has earned a start in the 2018 Masters.

Joaquin Niemann, ranked as the World’s Number 1 amateur golfer, came into the LAAC as the favourite and he lived up to his billing. After a disappointing first round of 74, the 19-year-old bounced back brilliantly with a second round 64. He followed that with a steady 72 in round three and then turned on the style in the final round to pull away from the field. Closing with a superb round of 63, the Chilean finished five clear of Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico and has earned an invitation to the 2018 Masters.

Niemann started the fourth round at the Prince of Wales CC steadily with two pars before taking advantage of the par-5 3rd hole where he made his first birdie of the day. At that stage he was still a shot off the lead but he made his move around the turn. A fabulous eagle two on the par-4 8th sparked an incredible run as he followed up wiht four straight birdies to take charge of the tournament. Through 12 holes Niemann was four ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz who had led the event through 54-holes.

Niemann then birdied the par-5 14th to get to 11-under and eight-under for the day. He negotiated the challenging home stretch at the Prince of Wales CC with four pars from the 15th to finish the tournament on 11-under-par and to become the 2018 LAAC champion.

Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico led by a stroke through 54-holes. The 22-year-old closed with a two-under-par 69 to finish alone in second place. It is the second straight year Ortiz has been runner-up in the championship. In the four instalments of the LAAC, Ortiz has only once finished outside the top three.

"It's disappointing and it's not easy to have just missed out again," he said. "But I can take the positives as I feel I played very well. I can learn from the defeat and that will help me when I look towards my professional career."

Three players tied for third place on five-under-par – Jaime Lopez Rivarola of Argentina, who had led through 36-holes, Gabriel Morgan Birke of Chile and Daniel Gurtner of Guatemala.

As the winner of the LAAC, Joaquin Niemann receives an invitation to compete in The Masters Tournament. As recipient of the Mark McCormack Medal as the world’s leading amateur golfer, he would also be exempt for this year’s Open Championship and U.S Open Championship as long as he doesn’t turn professional.

Runner up Ortiz receives exemptions into the final stages of qualifying for The Open Championship with an opportunity to earn a place in The 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, plus an exemption into final stage qualifying for the U.S. Open with an opportunity to earn a place in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

Niemann is great friends with the 2017 LAAC winner Toto Gana. In Panama last year, Gana defeated Niemann and Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz in a playoff for the title. Niemann then travelled with his countryman Gana to last year’s Masters. This time out it will be Niemann competing at Augusta.

“I can’t wait to tee it up there in April,” he said. “I’m feeling emotional right now, I can hardly believe it.”

The LAAC was first contested in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2015 and was won that year by Matias Dominguez of Chile. Three of the four winners of the event have come from Chile – Dominguez, Toto Gana and now Joaquin Niemann.

LAAC – Final Scores

1 Joaquin Niemann (Chi) -11 2 Alvaro Ortiz (Mex) -6 T3 Jaime Lopez Rivarola (Arg) -5 T3 Daniel Gurtner (Gua) -5 T3 Gabriel Morgan Birke (Chi) -5 6 Camilo Aguado (Col) -4 T7 Toto Gana (Chi) -2 T7 Manuel Torres (Ven) -2 T9 Gustavo Silvero (Par) -1 T9 Nicolas Herrera (Col) -1

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?