LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic — Segundo Oliva Pinto shot a 66 and is one three Argentinians inside the top 10 after Thursday’s opening round of the Latin American Amateur Championship at Casa de Campo resort’s Teeth of the Dog course.
Pinto is tied for the lead with Puerto Rico’s Roberto Nieves, who also shot 66 to kick off a tournament that will give the winner an automatic bid to the Masters and The Open Championship.
“I played great in the wind which is the hard part about this golf course,” said the 21-year-old Nieves, who made five birdies in his final nine holes. “I feel like I have been an underdog for a while and my game is starting to come together.”
The 22-year-old Pinto, who plays for Arkansas and is coming off a controversial loss in the South American Amateur Open after he hit the wrong ball in the final round, put together a bogey-free round.
“We still have three days and none of this is going to be easy,” Pinto said.
Vicente Marzilio shot a first-round 68, which was good enough to put him tied for third place. The 20-year-old Argentinian, who plays at North Texas, hit four birdies in a row during his first nine holes. Brazil’s Andrey Borges also shot a first-round 68 and stands at 4-under going into the second round.
In his first LAAC appearance, Chile’s Martin Leon had a bogey-free front nine to land at 4-under and tied for third as well. The 20-year-old, who plays golf at the University of Utah, came into this week ranked 808th in the World Amateur Golf rankings and will be attempting to be the fourth Chilean to win this event.
“On the back nine, the wind started blowing harder and I got a bit nervous from the tee,” Leon said. “But I managed to hit got shots when I needed and when I hit bad shots, I managed to recover”
The wind became a factor as the round transpired. Only 18 of the 102 players in the field finished the first round under par.
Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, who arrived as the top-ranked amateur, is the other Argentinian in the top 10 after the first round. He followed up his recent win at the South American Amateur Open in Ecuador with an opening round 69 that didn’t feature a single bogey.
Puerto Rico’s Jeronimo Estevez rounded out the top of the leaderboard after shooting 69. At 40 years old, he’s the oldest player in the top 10.
“It was kind of a crazy round,” Estevez said. “It is so intense out here, even in the first round. You have to commit on every shot and, for the most part I was able to do that today.”
This is the seventh time the LAAC has been held and the third time it’s been hosted by the Dominican Republic. The field was expected to be 108 contestants, but six could not participate because of COVID-19.