LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic — Puerto Rico’s Roberto Nieves gritted through a challenging day at the 2022 Latin America Amateur Championship to finish the third round in possession of the lead and up 1 shot on the rest of the field at Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the Dog course.
The 21-year-old Nieves, who is making his LAAC debut, came into the day 5 under and 4 shots behind second-round leader Julian Perico from Peru. But as the leaderboard shifted, Nieves — ranked 456th in the world — carded five birdies and only two bogeys to put himself in pole position ahead of the final day of the tournament.
“It wasn’t easy, every hole was a challenge today. It definitely played harder than the last two days,” Nieves said. “I took my medicine on the tough holes, but I left myself in spots where I wouldn’t get a big number.”
Big numbers were one of the stories on Saturday, as both defending champion Abel Gallegos and Perico carded six and seven bogeys or worse, respectively. Gallegos, in particular, shot a nine on the tough par-5 12th hole.
Brazil’s Fred Biondi, however, was the surprise of the day. After starting 1 over par on Saturday, the 21-year-old Biondi rocketed up the leaderboard with a 65 — tying the tournament course record. His high score put him 1 stroke behind Nieves and in contention for the title.
“I like this course in multiple ways, and I think you can’t really fake it around here,” said Biondi, who finished tied for sixth at the 2019 LAAC in Casa de Campo. “It’s always windy.”
At 5 under and 2 shots back, Vicente Marzilio and Segundo Oliva Pinto are the two Argentinians who remain in the thick of the tournament. Mexico’s Santiago De la Fuente del Valle also battled through a windy round to remain at 5 under and round out the top of the leaderboard.
Aaron Jarvis, of the Cayman Islands, came into the LAAC as the 1669th-ranked amateur player in the world. The 19-year-old, who plays at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is only 3 strokes back alongside Chilean Gabriel Morgan Birke, who is looking to become the fourth player from Chile to win this tournament.
Heading into the final round, nine players remain within 5 shots of the lead.