Nicolas Echavarria of Colombia fired a superb second round of 65 to take the lead in the second Latin America Amateur Championship at Casa de Campo.
Nicolas Echavarria, a 21-year-old in his senior year at Arkansas State, had an incredible round on Pete Dye’s Teeth of the Dog course featuring seven birdies, an eagle and a double bogey on the 17th, Echavarria’s eighth hole of the day. He leads the LAAC with two rounds to play.
The young Colombian has played golf since he was five years old and has strong family support. His older brother Andres competes on the Web.com Tour and his other brother Miguel played college golf at Michigan.
“We’ve had a good team at Arkansas for a couple of years and that helps us to take a good attitude to tournament golf,” he said. “I’m trying no to think about what victory here could mean but I feel very comfortable and relaxed and just have to keep doing the right things.”
Echaverria’s excellent 65 was matched by last year’s runner-up Alejandro Tosti. The Argentinian bounced back brilliantly from a disappointing first round of 75 to go into the weekend on four-under-par. He had nine birdies and one double bogey during his round.
Tosti who has had an eventful 12 months during which he started college at Florida State and suffered a bout of encephalitis, looked a different player as he came up just one shot shy of the course record and beat his Thursday score by 10 strokes.
“The ball went in the hole today – that was the difference,” he said. “I still had a big mistake on the 17th with a double, but overall I’m feeling very comfortable. I was patient today and the results came. Even after yesterday, I kept telling myself there is a long way to go.”
Defending champion, Matias Dominguez of Chile started his second round promisingly and reached four-under after racing to the turn in 33. But he played his next eight holes in four-over and he did well to close with a birdie to finish 36 holes on one-under-par. He’s just six shots back and is by no means out of it.
The top-50 and ties will contest the final 36 holes over the weekend and the cut looked like falling at five, or perhaps six-over-par at the time of writing.
This is an event that gives players from some of the lesser-known golfing nations a chance to compete on the elite stage. Haiti’s Jacklin Jean may have propped up the field at Casa de Campo this week, but he’s had an experience he’ll never forget. The Casa de Campo head pro gave him a golf bag at the beginning of the week – one embroidered with his name. Although he finished 54-over-par, he can take the positives. He improved today on yesterday’s 101 by four shots.
As the tournament goes into its second half, the contenders will have to overcome the pressure that will inevitably build as the prospect of the incredible prizes on offer looms larger.
The winner of this tournament will receive an invitation to the 2016 U.S. Masters. He will also earn an exemption into The Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl and to any USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible (including the US Amateur.) The winner and runner(s) up gain an exemption to Final Qualifying for The Open Championship at Royal Troon and final stage qualifying for the US Open at Oakmont CC.
Rafa Cabrera Bello swing sequence:
Latin America Amateur Championship – Round 2 scores
Teeth of the Dog course, Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic
Par 72, 7,274 yards
1 Nicolas Echavarria (Col) -7
T2 Alejandro Tosti (Arg) -4
T4 Jose Andres Miranda (Ecu) -3 (through 12)
T4 Jose Luis Montano (Bol) -3
T5 Gaston Bertinotti (Arg) -2
T5 Luis Fernando Barco (Per) -2
T5 Joaquin Niemann (Chi) -2 (through 16)