Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico leads the Latin America Amateur Championship in Santiago, Chile by one shot from a group of four players including the defending champion Toto Gana and the World’s Number 1 amateur Joaquin Niemann, both from Chile.

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Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz, who lost out to Toto Gana in a playoff for the LAAC last year, carded a one-under-par 70 at the Prince of Wales CC in Santiago to finish three rounds of this year’s tournament at four-under-par. The 22-year-old, a senior at the University of Arkansas, got to five-under twice in his round but dropped back both times. He managed to par the testing last hole to get it into the clubhouse at four-under, one ahead of the field.

After the round, Ortiz spoke of his playoff loss in Panama and what it will take for him to get the victory this time out.

“I have literally been thinking about getting back into this position (to have a chance of winning) for a whole year,” he said. “I am an emotional player and what I have learned in the last year is that I have to go into tomorrow’s round with a full tank of patience and to really control myself on the course. I’m looking forward to it.”

The three players who contested the playoff for the third LAAC in Panama last season are once again to the fore in this year’s championship. Ortiz leads, with defending champion Toto Gana and World Amateur Number 1 Joaquin Niemann tied for second with Jaime Lopez Riverola and Daniel Gurtner, just a stroke behind.

Chile’s Niemann started well in round three and after birdies at the 3rd and 4th holes, he reached six-under. But those gains were cancelled out by dropped shots at the 6th and 7th holes and another one went on the difficult 18th. He carded a one-over-par 72 for a 54-hole total of three-under.

Toto Gana, also a home player and receiving tremendous support from the large galleries, also scored 72. His round included two birdies and three dropped shots.

Overnight leader Jaime Lopez Riverola of Argentina held his position at the top of the board until he encountered problems on the 17th. After finding the trees from the tee, his third shot leaked right into the greenside bunker and he was unable to get up-and-down. The double bogey saw him drop back to three-under.

The 18th, a par-4 playing at just under 500 yards and into a stiff breeze, caused problems for a number of players and only two birdies were recorded on it through the day. Both Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann dropped shots at the hole.

There are 16 players within five shots of the lead with a round to play and all of them will feel they have a chance going into tomorrow.

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Round of the day came from Julian Perico of Peru. He posted a 67 to move up the board into a tie for 22nd on four-over-par.

Daniel Gurtner of Guatemala carded an excellent 69 today to reach three-under-par for the tournament, just one off the lead in a tie for second. He’s looking to become the first player from Guatemala to play in The Masters.

The winner of the LAAC receives: an invitation to compete in The Masters Tournament; an exemption into The Amateur Championship, an exemption into the U.S. Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible.

In addition, the champion and runner(s)-up receive exemptions into the final stages of qualifiying for The Open Championship with an opportunity to earn a place in The 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, plus an exemption into final stage qualifying for the U.S. Open with an opportunity to earn a place in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

LAAC Round 3 – Leading scores

1 Alvaro Ortiz (Mex) -4
T2 Jaime Lopez Riverola (Arg) -3
T2 Toto Gana (Chi) -3
T2 Joaquin Niemann (Chi) -3
T2 Daniel Gurtner (Gua) -3
T6 Mario Carmona (Mex) -2
T6 Manuel Torres (Ven) -2
T6 Gabriel Morgan Birke (Chi) -2
T6 Aaron Terrazas (Mex) -2
T6 Camilo Aguado (Col) -2