Roberto Nieves sprang back into the lead after the third round of the 2022 Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) at Casa de Campo today.
The Puerto Rican, who was tied for the lead after the first round, shot a two-under-par round of 70 to move to a seven-under total for the championship and a one-stroke lead over Brazil’s Fred Biondi. Argentina’s Segundo Oliva Pinto and Vicente Marzilio are on five under alongside Santiago De la Fuente of Mexico.
Nieves got off to a fast start with three birdies in his first six holes and held his nerve on the back nine to recover from bogeys on the 13th and 16th holes with a closing birdie 4.
“I feel like I did everything pretty solid, took my medicine on the tough holes. It wasn’t easy, every hole was a challenge today. It definitely played harder than the last two days,” said Nieves.
“I think I did a good job of keeping the ball in front of me. I left myself in spots where I wouldn’t get a big number.”
Grand Reserve Golf Club in Puerto Rico was confirmed as the 2023 venue for the LAAC earlier in the week, and the announcement has given Nieves added momentum. “I love that course and I am happy to be representing them and sharing in this great news,” added Nieves.
After starting the day 10 strokes behind second-round leader Julian Perico, Biondi looked to have seized the initiative with a seven-under-par 65 that propelled him into a position of holding the clubhouse lead, but Nieves overtook him later in the round.
The redshirt junior at the University of Florida made the most of moving day, carding eight birdies and dropping just one stroke to move firmly into contention. The 21-year-old finished T6 the last time the LAAC was played at Casa de Campo in 2019.
“I like this course in multiple ways and I think you can’t really fake it around here. The greens are small and there are a lot of run-offs. It’s always windy,” said Biondi.
Peru’s Perico struggled to an eight-over-par round of 80 to drop back to one under par for the championship.
Mexican De la Fuente had more trouble navigating the wind but another display of creativity in his short game kept his score at level par for the day, and he is just two strokes off the lead. “I was able to stay calm and very focused during most of the round. I think it was a good round,” he said.
Oliva Pinto enjoyed a mixed day with a spectacular eagle 3 on the fifth and birdies on the second and 18th holes being undone by five bogeys in a one-over-par 73.
Marzilio recovered from a double-bogey 5 on the third hole to post a level par 72.
“I did not check the leaderboard at any time today. I just felt I had to make birdies to get close to the leaders, but the course was not playing easy today. The wind blew harder, and I felt I was getting close,” said the Argentine.
His compatriot, defending champion Abel Gallegos, who lifted the LAAC trophy at Mayakoba in 2020, dropped from the top of the leaderboard into a tie for 17th after a bogey, quadruple bogey and a double-bogey on the 11th, 12th and 13th holes. Gallegos finished on one over par and is eight strokes off the lead.
Along with Puerto Rico and the local team, a series of Caribbean countries have performed well at this year’s LAAC. Four of six players from the Dominican Republic made the cut, with Juan Cayro Delgado at T14 leading the host country representation. Yadhu Urs of Saint Lucia and Kurt Rivers of Turks & Caicos, the first players from their respective country/territory to ever make the cut at the LAAC, finished the third round eight over and nine over.
One of the main surprises of the 2022 LAAC has been Aaron Jarvis of the Cayman Islands, who sits at four under par in a tie for sixth at the end of the third round. “It wasn’t easy. Every hole was a challenge today,” said 19-year-old Jarvis.
Tomorrow’s final round gets underway at 7:40 a.m. local time.