In favourable conditions, good scoring prevailed in the first round of the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) at the Grand Reserve Golf Club in Puerto Rico. Colombia’s Mateo Fuenmayor leads the way by one shot from four players after a superb opening round of six-under-par 66.
Fuenmayor dropped just one shot on his way to his sparkling opening round of 66. He picked up three strokes to par on his front nine and countered a single bogey on the back nine with no fewer than four birdies.
Fuenmayor, ranked 390th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking resides in Beaverton Oregon. He was second in last year’s Oregon State Invitational and in the Oregon Amateur Championship.
Four players are on five-under-par, one back of Fuenmayor.
Teeing off from the 10th hole, Martin Cancino of Chile opened up strongly with three birdies between the 10th and 14th. He stumbled with a bogey on the 15th but bounced back with a birdie two on the next par-3 – the 17th.
He then turned on the afterburners on his back nine with three straight birdies from the 4th. He dropped a shot on the 7th but held it together well to close out an extremely solid five-under-par 67, one back of the leader.
Cancino is looking to become the fourth Chilean winner of the LAAC, following in the footsteps of Matias Dominguez, Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann.
Santiago de la Fuente of Mexico and Vicente Marzilio of Argentina set the early scoring standard, also posting rounds of 67.
Starting on the 10th, de la Fuente went to the turn in three-under and added two more birdies on his back nine to post a blemish-free round.
“My caddy and I had a good strategy and got away with a couple of shots,” he said. “I’m enjoying the week, trying to stay relaxed and in the moment.”
Marzilio was also without a bogey in his round of 67. The 2021 Mexican Amateur champion finished with a flourish, birdieing the 14th, 15th and 16th holes to get to five-under. Marzilio was runner-up to Aaron Jarvis in last year’s LAAC in the Dominican Republic.
“I’ve proved to myself I can compete in the big events and it’s just a matter of time before I get it done,” he said confidently.
Mexico's Luis Carrera bogeyed the 1st and 3rd holes but bounced back with seven birdies in the remainder of his round, including one on the final hole, to also come in with 67.
On a day of good scoring, 48 players sit at level par or better with a few still to finish round one.
Defending champion Aaron Jarvis opened with a solid round of 72. The Cayman Islands golfer is looking to become the first player to successfully defend the LAAC title and he made four birdies in round one, unfortunately, he also made four bogeys.
“I got off to a rough start and I wasn’t hitting it great,” he said. “But I stayed patient, made a few birdies and even par to start with – I’ll take it.”
The objective for many on day one was to stay calm and composed and not think of the significant spoils on offer to the tournament victor.
The LAAC champion receives an invitation to compete in the 2023 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club and will automatically qualify for The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool. For the first time, the winner will also earn a spot in the US Open, held this year at Los Angeles Country Club.
The winner also receives full exemptions into The 128th Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible.
Runner(s)-up will be exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The 151st Open and the 123rd U.S. Open Championship.
Previous champions of the LAAC include Joaquin Niemann of Chile and Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz.
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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?
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