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Nieves leads after LAAC round three

Roberto Nieves sprang back into the lead after the third round of the 2022 Latin America Amateur Championship at Casa de Campo today.


The Puerto Rican, who was tied for the lead after the first round, shot a 2-under-par round of 70 to move to a 7-under total for the championship and a one-shot lead over Brazil’s Fred Biondi. 


Argentina’s Segundo Oliva Pinto and Vicente Marzilio are on 5-under alongside Santiago De la Fuente of Mexico.


Birdie streak


Nieves got off to a fast start with four 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 four.


“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 definitively 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.


Biondi makes move


After starting the day 10 shots behind second-round leader Julian Perico, Biondi looked to have seized the initiative with a 7-under-par 65 that propelled him into a position of holding the clubhouse lead, but Nieves overtook him later in the round.


The Red Shirt Junior at the University of Florida made the most of moving day, carding eight birdies and dropping just one shot 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 8-over par round of 80 to drop back to 1-under-par for the championship.


Chasing pack


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 three on the fifth and birdies on the second and 18th holes being undone by five bogeys in a 1-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.


Champion falters


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 8-over and 9-over.


One of the the main surprises of the 2022 LAAC has been Aaron Jarvis of the Cayman Islands who sits T6 at the end of the third round. “It wasn’t easy. Every hole was a challenge today,” said 19-year-old Jarvis.


Tomorrow’s third round gets underway at 7:40 a.m. local time.


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