Jose Vega of Colombia leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at the halfway stage. He sits on three-under after 36-holes in Mayakoba, Mexico.


LAAC Round 2: Jose Vega leads at halfway point

In challenging conditions Jose Vega of Colombia produced a fabulous second round of 65 to take the lead in the Latin America Amateur Championship.

At three-under-par, he is three clear of 15-year-old Chilean Lukas Roessler.

Vega came out of the blocks fast on Friday afternoon in the LAAC at Mayakoba with a birdie on the 1st hole.

He then moved three-under for the day when he holed his second shot for an eagle at the par-4 3rd.

Vega made further gains at the 7th and 11th.

On the par-3 13th, his second found sand but he played a tremendous shot out to within three feet of the cup and converted for birdie.

That put him six-under for the day, a score that had seemed highly unlikely at the outset of play.

The 26-year-old looked in total control of his game on the run for home with pars all the way in.

Vega is the only man under par after two rounds over the testing El Camaleon course.

The wind continued to be a factor on Friday at Mayakoba with the gusts making for extremely challenging playing conditions.

15-year-old Lukas Roessler of Chile battled well in the tough weather, holing a number of clutch putts to stay in touch.

The youngster is level par through 36.

The top-ranked player in the field, Gabriel Morgan Birke, finished with a 73 to be one-over par going into the weekend.

The Chilean is tied on that score with Abel Gallegos of Argentina who posted a commendable 70.

Another Chilean, Benjamin Saiz-Wenz also produced a solid round of 70.

The 20-year-old won the South America Amateur Championship last week and he has continued that form this week.

He reached three-under for the day midway through his back nine but dropped back to one-under for the day and finished 36-holes on two-over.

Overnight leader Ivan Camilo Ramirez returned a five-over-par 76 which might have looked disappointing on paper but it kept him well in touch.

“It was a grind out there,” he said. “Yesterday I played well and although this round was tough, I am still in a good position and I want to give myself a chance on Sunday. That is the important thing.”

Brazilian youngster Andrey Xavier Borges bounced back well from an opening 77.

He posted a second round 69 to move into the top-10 on four-over par.

Argentina’s Andy Schonbaum, a relative veteran in this event at the age of 28 who has a full-time job working as an insurance broker, produced an excellent two-under-par round of 69.

He started on the back nine and reached the turn two-over for the day.

A further shot went at the second but then he produced a scintillating finish.

With five birdies in his last seven holes, he is sitting on a 36-hole total of four-over-par.

“I was very pleased with how I finished,” he said. “It was tough out there, hard to trust the line off the tee as it’s a fine line between finding fairway or jungle! I actually fell to nine-over for the tournament at one point and got a little mad at myself. To pull it back was very satisfying.”

In the tough winds, with trouble both sides on almost every hole, many in the field struggled.

In the end the cut came at 13-over-par – the highest ever in the LAAC.

The battle for the wooden spoon was taken quite comfortably in the end by the oldest player in the field – 61-year-old Desinor Pierre from Haiti.

The tennis coach who lives in Florida had a round to forget, finishing with 112.

With two nines and an 11, his card was reminiscent of Maurice Flitcroft’s in qualifying for the 1976 Open – A blizzard of triple and quadruple bogeys, marred by a solitary par.

Pierre’s came on the par-3 4th.

With two rounds to go, the prospect of the incredible prizes the LAAC offers is looming larger for the players who have made the cut and are within striking distance of the lead.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to compete in the 2020 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club and, for the first time, will automatically qualify for The 149th Open at Royal St George’s.

The winner also receives full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible and is exempt into the final stages of qualifying for the 120th U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot.

Runner(s)-up will be exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The 149th Open and the 120th U.S. Open Championship.

LAAC Round 2 Leaderboard

1 Jose Vega (Col) -3
2 Lukas Roessler (Chi) Level
T3 Gabriel Morgan Birke (Chi) +1
T3 Abel Gallegos (Arg) +1
T5 Benjamin Saiz-Wenz (Chi) +2
T5 Ivan Camilo Ramirez (Col) +2
T7 Segundo Oliva Pinto (Arg) +4
T7 Aaron Terrazas (Mex) +4
T7 Andrey Xavier Borges (Bra) +4
T7 Horacio Carbonetti (Arg) +4
T7 Andy Schonbaum (Arg) +4

The top-50 and ties made the cut (+13)