PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Jose Vega used an early hole-out for eagle to jump-start a sizzling round of 65 on Friday, seizing the lead at three-under par after 36 holes of the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) at Mayakoba’s El Camaelón Golf Club in Mexico. Vega, a 26-year-old Colombian, is three shots ahead of Lukas Roessler of Chile at even par, with Chile’s Gabriel Morgan Birke and Argentina’s Abel Gallegos tied for third place, four strokes behind at one over.
Vega’s 65 on the par-71 layout ties for the fourth-lowest single-round score in LAAC history and is the tied for the second-lowest second-round total in championship history, trailing only Joaquin Niemann’s 64 in the second round of the 2018 LAAC at Prince of Wales Country Club in Chile.
It started with Vega pouring in a birdie putt on No. 1 before he saw his wedge approach on the par-4 third take one bounce and disappear for an unexpected eagle. Vega added three more birdies and did not record a bogey on a day that, for mostly everyone else, was difficult for scoring.
“I think it was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played,” Vega said. “And playing on a stage like this, it’s even better.”
Vega, who grew up in Medellin, played college golf at Bellevue University in Nebraska until 2015, but now works as a regional director of sales for Trackman, a popular golf technology company. While he only plays a handful of tournaments, he still spends much of his time around the golf course, working with top players in the professional ranks.
And while he called golf more of a “hobby” for himself these days, Vega also did not hesitate when asked if he believes he can hold onto his lead over the final 36 holes.
“Absolutely,” he said. “My mind and my way of living is just a competitive mindset. … I’m not here to be second. I’m not here to be third. I’m here to win.”
Vega was one of only five players to break par in the second round, as winds whipped through the Riviera Maya and gusts reached up to 35 mph. At one point, Birke was forced to remove his hat before he hit his approach on No. 14 because it would not stay on his head; Colombia’s Ivan Camilo Ramirez, the first-round leader now tied for fifth at two over, said the wind “blows sideways” and made it “hard to trust the line and commit” as players considered their shots.
Fifty-two players representing 20 different countries ultimately made the 36-hole cut, which came at 13-over-par 155. El Salvador’s Rodrigo Sol, who sits at nine over, is the first player from his country to play the weekend at a LAAC, while Chile led all countries with eight players qualifying for the weekend.
The host country is also well-represented, as seven of the 11 Mexican players in the field qualified for the weekend. They are led by Aaron Terrazas, who is tied for seventh at four over.