Nicolas Echavarria, of Colombia, shot a 7-under-par 65 on Friday to take a three-stroke lead over Alejandro Tosti, of Argentina, through two rounds of the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) on the 7,202-yard, par-72 Teeth of the Dog Course at Casa de Campo.
Echavarria opened with an even-par 72 on Thursday and stands at 7-under 137 through two rounds of the 72-hole championship. Tosti, the runner-up to Matias Dominguez, of Chile, in last year’s inaugural LAAC at Pilar Golf outside Buenos Aires, matched Echavarria’s 7-under 65 on Friday for a two-round total of 140 and stands alone in second place.
Echavarria and Tosti tied for the lowest round in championship history, which was set by Dominguez’s 65 in last year’s second round. They were one stroke off the Casa de Campo course record of 64, by Martin Trainor and Rick Cochran III, both of the USA, in the 2014 DR Open, a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event.
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.
“I’m comfortable with where I am,” said Echavarria, 21, a senior at the University of Arkansas. “It’s a course where the good ball-strikers and the smart guys are going to be up there no matter what, because there are a lot of holes with trouble where you cannot hit it, and the closing holes are tough.”
Echavarria’s lone miscue on the day came on one of those holes, the 422-yard, par-4 17th – his eighth of the day – which hugs the Caribbean Sea. He made double bogey there, but more than countered that with an eagle on the 495-yard, par-5 14th and seven birdies, four of them in his final six holes of the day.
Tosti, 19, a sophomore at the University of Florida, also made double bogey on No. 17, but he matched an LAAC record with nine birdies on Friday. Joaquin Bonjour, of Argentina, had nine in the second round last year en route to a seventh-place finish.
“I wasn’t feeling really good after the round,” said Tosti of his opening 75 on Thursday, which ended bogey-double bogey. “The score didn’t reflect what I did on the course. I was thinking a lot, I talked with a lot of people, and I knew my game could do it, I knew.”
Jose Luis Montano, 19, of Bolivia, a sophomore at Xavier University, followed Thursday’s even-par effort with a 3-under 69 and is alone in third place, one stroke behind Tosti. Gaston Bertinotti, 20, of Argentina, a junior at Campbell University in North Carolina, and Luis Fernando Barco, 20, of Peru, a junior at Purdue University, are tied for fourth at 2-under 142, one stroke behind Montano.
Dominguez, who opened with 71 and stood at 4 under for the championship through 27 holes, played his incoming nine in 39 to finish with a 72 and stands at 1-under 143, in a tie for sixth with four others. The 36-hole cut came at 6-over-par 150, leaving 51 players to compete on the weekend.
Among those to miss the cut were Matias Simaski, of Argentina, the 11th-place finisher in 2015, who bogeyed his final hole to miss by one, and 2015 third-place finisher Andre Tourinho, of Brazil, who shot 75-79 to miss by four strokes.
For more information about the LAAC, including latest news, schedule, spectator information and a roster of players competing, please visit www.LAACgolf.com.