Jaime Lopez Rivarola of Argentina leads the fourth Latin America Amateur championship at the halfway stage after a second round 68 at the Prince of Wales CC in Santiago, Chile.

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Jaime Lopez Rivarola of Argentina followed an opening 69 with a second round 68 to sit on five-under-par through 36 holes of the Latin America Amateur Championship (LAAC) and to lead by a shot from Chileans Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann.

Lopez Rivarola carded five birdies against just three bogeys to post one of the best rounds of the day in the more challenging, windy afternoon conditions.

The Argentinian is playing in his fourth LAAC and believes that his experience in the first three instalments is helping him this week.

“I’ve been here before and I am really aware of trying to stay in the present,” he said. “Yes, I am the leader by a shot but really it doesn’t mean too much at this stage. I have to focus on tomorrow as that is another day.”

A graduate of the University of Georgia, Lopez Rivarola is no stranger to Augusta and The Masters tournament. The winner of this event will secure a start in the 2018 Masters this April.

“Yes, I have been lucky enough to cross playing Augusta off my bucket list through my university,” he said. “And I have been able to attend The Masters while I was there too. But playing in The Masters is a different thing altogether.”

World Amateur number 1, Joaquin Niemann of Chile bounced back strongly from a disappointing first round. He carded a brilliant 64 to move to four-under-par for the tournament.

Niemann started his round on the 10th and he came racing out of the blocks with five birdies in his first seven holes. After a dropped shot on the 17th, his 8th, he reached the turn in just 31 strokes.

A bogey on the 2nd was sandwiched between birdies on the 1st and 3rd holes and he then played some steady golf with five straight pars to the 9th. On his final hole, the 561-yard par-5 9th, the 19-year-old hit a huge drive and had just an iron in for his second. He found the bunker just left of the putting surface and then holed out for an eagle three and a 64, eliciting rapturous applause from the sizeable home crowd.

“Yesterday I was letting the course get the better of me,” he said. “Today I had a completely different mentality. When I shoot a bad round I have extra motivation and I feel I have to play my best golf.”

Overnight leader and defending champion Toto Gana of Chile kept up his steady play with a second round 70. He closed with a birdie from off the green on the 18th to finish 36 holes within just a shot of the lead.

Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico shared the lead with two holes to play in his second round but he closed with two bogeys to finish with a 70 and on three-under, two off the lead.

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 2 – Leading scores

1 Jaime Lopez Rivarola (Arg) -5
T2 Toto Gana (Chi) -4
T2 Joaquin Niemann (Chi) -4
4 Alvaro Ortiz (Mex) -3
T5 Mario Carmona (Mex) -1
T5 Andy Schonbaum (Arg) -1
T5 Jorge Garcia (Ven) -1
T5 Daniel Gurtner (Gua) -1
T5 Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira -1