Jaime Lopez Rivarola takes 36-hole lead at Latin America Amateur

Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Jaime Lopez Rivarola takes 36-hole lead at Latin America Amateur

Amateur

Jaime Lopez Rivarola takes 36-hole lead at Latin America Amateur

A solo leader has emerged halfway through in Chile, but he has some dangerous competition right behind.

Jaime Lopez Rivarola, 22, fired a 3-under 68 Sunday at Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago to post at 5 under overall – giving him the 36-hole lead by a shot.

But right behind is a stellar pair: Defending champion Toto Gana and World Amateur No. 1 Joaquin Niemann find themselves in a tie for second at 4 under.

Gana, 20, followed up an opening 68 that saw the Chilean, a sophomore at Lynn, share the first-round lead with two others with a Sunday 70. It was a round that included a double bogey and three bogeys, but six birdies as well to salvage a good day.

Niemann, meanwhile, caught fire in Round 2 to move back into contention. The fellow Chilean made an eagle and seven birdies in a scorching 7-under 64 to rocket from T-37 to T-2.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that’s usually what happens in my case,” said Niemann, whose 64 tied the tournament record for low round. “When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf.”

Niemann, 19, plans to turn pro after this week if he fails to win.

A victory would earn Niemann (or whoever) a spot in the Masters – and for Niemann that would mean delaying his turning pro until after his time at Augusta. If Niemann or Gana could pull out the win, this would be the third time in the tournament’s four-year history that a Chilean would triumph.

But this time it would be extra special on home soil.

For Lopez Rivarola, of Argentina, he knows how much is at stake. But his 36-hole lead has been predicated on not looking ahead to what might be.

“(What) I’m doing different this year is not trying to think ahead of what’s going to happen later on,” said Lopez Rivarola, a former Georgia player. “I try to stay in the present and know that, even though I am a leader by just one stroke, it doesn’t mean much. I have to stay in the present and try to do my best the next two days.”

Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz, a senior at Arkansas, sits solo fourth at 3 under. Argentina’s Mark Montenegro, a first-round co-leader, fires a 74 to drop to a tie for 10th at even par. Fellow 18-hole leader Pablo Torres, of Colombia, posted the same second-round score.

Paul Chaplet, the 2016 champion, sits in a tie for 44th at 7 over. He made the cut on the number.

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