Alvaro Ortiz takes early control at Latin America Amateur

Alvaro Ortiz takes early control at Latin America Amateur

Amateur

Alvaro Ortiz takes early control at Latin America Amateur

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Alvaro Ortiz served notice on Thursday, and it could have him on an early path to a major.

The Mexican golfer played his first 14 holes in 7 under in the opening round of the Latin America Amateur Championship on his way to a 6-under 66 and a three-shot lead.

Five players are in a tie for second at 3 under at the Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic. That list encompasses Max Alverio, Luis Fernando Barco, Agustin Errazuriz, Juan Cayro Delgado and Alejandro Madariaga.

Jorge Garcia is among those in a tie for seventh at 2 under. Luis Gagne is T-13 at even par.

The winner of this tournament earns a spot into the 2019 Masters. And there are other perks as well: Full exemptions into the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible. The winner and the runner(s)-up will also be exempt into the final stages of qualifying for the U.S. Open and British Open.

Ortiz finished up his college career at Arkansas in 2018 with an All-SEC senior campaign. He finished the 2017-18 college season ranked 47th by Golfweek.

He’s currently No. 119 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

According to Golf Channel, the 23-year-old will turn pro and go to PGA Tour Latinoamerica Q-School next week barring one scenario: A win this week. In that case, he would retain his amateur status through the Masters in order to be able to use his exemption into the year’s first major.

More days like Thursday would have him well on his way.

Ortiz opened his day with a birdie at No. 10. A bogey at the par-5 12th didn’t faze him, as he birdied his next three holes. A birdie at the par-5 18th allowed him to go out in 4-under 32. He birdied the par-4 first and then eagled the par-5 fifth to reach 7 under.

A bogey at the par-4 sixth would bring him back to his final 6-under score.

There are 54 holes to go, but a win would also be nice redemption for Ortiz. He lost in a playoff at this event two years ago and finished second again in 2018 (although it was a distant second, five shots short of Joaquin Niemann – who is not back to defend because he turned pro).

But hey, it’s a great start on that path.

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