Gaston Bertinotti, of Argentina, birdied the 480-yard, par-4 18th hole on Saturday to complete a round of 3-under-par 69 and take a one-stroke lead over Jorge Garcia, of Venezuela, going into Sunday’s final round of the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) on the Teeth of the Dog Course at Casa de Campo.
Bertinotti, a junior at Campbell University in North Carolina, is at 5-under-par 211 through 54 holes. Garcia matched Bertinotti’s round of 69, and stands at 4-under 212 through 54 holes. Alejandro Tosti, of Argentina, the runner-up in last year’s inaugural LAAC at Pilar Golf outside Buenos Aires, is one stroke behind Garcia, his college teammate at the University of Florida. The three players will play in the final grouping of Sunday’s fourth round, starting at 9:28 a.m. Atlantic time.
The LAAC champion will earn an invitation to the 2016 Masters Tournament in April, as well as exemptions into The Amateur Championship (conducted by The R&A) and the U.S. Amateur Championship (conducted by the United States Golf Association). The winner will also earn spots in final qualifying for The 145th Open Championship and the 2016 U.S. Open.
“Really, I don't want to think about the Masters right now, because it’s 18 holes, a lot of players, and I’m just one shot ahead of the other one,” said Bertinotti, 20, who is No. 234 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR). “So like I say, shot by shot, hole by hole, that's what I think. In 18 holes, a lot of stuff can happen.”
Nicolas Echavarria, of Colombia, who led by three strokes after two rounds at 7-under, made a triple-bogey 6 on the par-3 seventh hole and struggled to a round of 5-over 77. He stands alone in fourth place at 2-under 214, and will play in the second-to-last grouping with Manuel Torres, of Venezuela, who shot the day’s low round of 68, and Paul Chaplet, of Costa Rica, who shot 71 and briefly led at 5 under when he eagled the par-5 14th hole. Torres and Chaplet are in a three-way tie for fifth place at 1-under 215 with Jesus Dario Montenegro, of Argentina.
Defending champion Matias Dominguez, of Chile, who was tied for sixth through two rounds at 1-under, made six bogeys and a double bogey on the way to a 7-over 79 on Saturday and fell into a tie for 28th place at 5-over 221.
“Today showed that you can go out there and get eaten by this golf course,” said Garcia, 19, who is No. 36 in the WAGR and won the South Beach International in late December in Miami. “The way I played today was very fun. It was a very patient round. I hit the ball probably the best I've hit it in a couple months. I gave myself a lot of 12-to-15-footers for birdie.”
Garcia converted just three birdies, but parred the other 15 holes on a day when the 51 players who made the 36-hole cut combined for a 74.99 stroke average. Bertinotti had four birdies and just one bogey in his 3-under effort. Juan Alvarez, of Uruguay, at No. 34 the highest-ranked player in the field in the WAGR, shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday and stands at 3-over 219 through three rounds, in a tie for 17th place.
Following the completion of the third round, Alvaro Ortiz, of Mexico, reported to the Rules Committee that he had signed an incorrect scorecard. He was subsequently disqualified under Rule 6-6d.
For more information about the LAAC, including latest news, schedule, spectator information and a roster of players competing, please visit www.LAACgolf.com.