Argentina trails Canada by a shot at Copa

Albin Choi

Editor's note: For our complete Copa de las Americas coverage, click here.

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DORAL, Fla. – Jaime Lopez Rivarola is trying hard to stick to his captain’s gameplan. Santiago Garat, leading Argentina this week at the Copa de las Americas, told his players to concentrate on their own games. Seems logical enough, except that his message to Rivarola and teammate Alejandro Tosti was slightly different than it was to female team members Maria Olivero and Delfina Acosta.

“The girls have a pretty solid game, and he knows that they can win it easily,” Rivarola said. “The difference is the guys. Alejandro shot a pretty solid round yesterday (72), and we know he can do as good as yesterday, so the key was just to concentrate on our game, not on the others'.”

Rivarola didn’t sound the slightest bit offended, and maybe it’s because Garat seems to be on to something. By day’s end, Argentina trailed Canada by one shot in the overall competition while the Argentine women were tied with Canada atop their respective division. The Argentine men were fourth.

The Copa de las Americas features men's and women's amateurs from North, South and Central America, plus the Caribbean.

Still, Rivarola and Tosti made up serious ground on Friday at Doral’s Blue Monster. Rivarola posted the second-lowest score on the board, a 3-under 69.

“It was pretty much the same as yesterday, but I drove it way better,” he said. “... My irons were good and my putter was as solid as yesterday.”

Rivarola’s score is almost directly attributable to hitting more fairways on Friday. He hit six more than on Thursday, for a total of 10, and had four birdies. Tosti added a second-round 76 as Olivero shot 78 and Acosta had 75. The team is at 15-over 591.

Argentina has never won this competition, but came close in 2010 at Olivos Golf Club in suburban Buenos Aires. Argentina finished second to the U.S., but the entire squad since has turned over.

All Rivarola, 17, can remember about the 2010 Copa de las Americas is that during that week, he was taking a vacation at the beach in Carilo, Argentina. The last few weeks, however, have been exactly opposite of vacation. Rivarola has been competing in south Florida for the previous two weeks, playing the Doral-Publix Junior and then the Junior Orange Bowl Championship. He was runner-up at the latter.

Not only would an Argentine victory be a first for this competition, but it would be the same story for any country not named Canada or the U.S. Canada won the first two Copas, in 2003 and '05, and the U.S. won in 2007 and '10.

On the shoulders of Albin Choi, a junior at North Carolina State, Canada rose from fifth on the leaderboard after Round 1 to first after Round 2. Choi’s 68 was Friday's lowest round.

“I didn’t play too well yesterday, so I just kind of cleared my head and came out and had a better day today,” Choi said of shaving eight shots from his first-round 76.

Scores rose across the board Friday, but Choi couldn’t explain why. It was another postcard day at Doral, perhaps with trickier pins.

Choi knows the thrill of team golf from college and from two turns on Canada’s World Amateur Team Championship squad. One of those came in September, when he and teammates Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Connors tied for sixth.

“It’s always exciting,” Choi said of team golf. “It’s a different game when you’re not just playing for yourself, you’re playing for your country. It makes you play harder.”

Canada’s lead led to a brief history lesson for Choi. Should Canada be able to hold its lead, it would become the winningest team in the event's history. It’s too early, though, for Choi to think about that.

“To be a part of that team would be great,” he said. “I definitely think we have a very good chance, just keep playing solid golf. There’s still two more days left, so we’ll see how it goes, but it would be exciting, just thinking about it.”

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