The field for the inaugural Latin America Amateur Championship includes two players named Alvaro Ortiz. One, a 19-year-old from Mexico, is No. 256 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ and the younger brother of Carlos Ortiz, a three-time winner on the Web.com Tour who plays on the PGA Tour.
The other Alvaro Ortiz, from Costa Rica, is 46 – old enough, he noted wryly, to be his namesake’s father. He sits more than 800 places behind young Alvaro on the WAGR, at No. 1,099. There shouldn’t be a problem telling them apart, except that midway through Round 2 on Friday, they were each on the first page of the leader board, requiring the championship’s scoring unit to add Alvaro the elder’s middle initial, E., to differentiate the two.
Alvaro E. got to 5 under par at one point, and although he struggled on his final four holes, he is tied for 12th place at 1 under par through 36 holes, just two strokes behind young Alvaro, who is a freshman at the University of Arkansas.
“He’s a great kid, with a great future ahead of him,” said Ortiz. “It’s quite a coincidence, our names. We laugh about it – I tell him if he finds a girlfriend and she calls me by mistake, I’ll be sure to refer her to him.”
Ortiz could laugh, even after his rocky finish, which included three balls in the water in three holes.
“I made a very amateur mistake on 14,” said Ortiz. “There is so much room to the right, and I missed it left into the water. At this level, you can’t do that. I took a drop and caught a bad lie, and hit it in the water again.”
Ortiz got up and down for double bogey, then went birdie-double bogey-bogey on his final three holes – Nos. 17 and 18 played as the third-hardest and hardest holes of the day, respectively.
“If you gave me a 72 in the morning, I would have taken it,” said Ortiz. “It’s not a 72 the right way, not the way I wanted it, but it’s a 72.”
Ortiz is the oldest player to make the 36-hole cut. “Give me some credit on that one,” he cajoled.
Credit is due to him for retaining such a high level of skill into his mid-40s. To wit, Ortiz won the Costa Rican Amateur for the 25th time in 2014, on the 30th anniversary of his first victory at age 16.
“I’m proud of the way I’ve handled myself,” said Ortiz, who has competed in six World Amateur Team Championships for Costa Rica, including 2014. “I eat well, I have a workout routine. When I play golf, which is not very often – not like these college kids who play every day – I’m very disciplined.”
Ortiz has brought that discipline to Argentina, where he joins Paul Chaplet, 15, and Jose Mendez, 19, as his country’s representatives in the LAAC.
“I feel privileged to be part of such a great event,” said Ortiz, who is a 1992 graduate of Texas Wesleyan University and a reinstated amateur. “As much golf as I’ve played in the past 30 years, this may be the most well-organized, classy event of my life. It’s pretty amazing.”
Ortiz has had to work hard to stay in the mix, having seen the level of competition rise as he has gotten older.
“The expectations, the level of the amateur game in Latin America and the world is so competitive,” he said. “This is the same type of field as the World Amateur, and last year in Japan they broke all of the scoring records. It shows you how good these guys are.”
Even as he begins to mull the transition into senior competition, Ortiz is managing to keep up with most of them.
No. 8 Plays to 93 Yards
The par-3 eighth at Pilar Golf is listed at 151 yards for the LAAC, but for Friday’s second round, the distance from the teeing ground to the front-left hole location was just 93 yards, an “in-between” distance for many players.
Second-round leader Andres Tourinho, of Brazil, was taken aback when he reached the hole.
“I was like, whoa, what’s going on here?” he said. “Once I saw it, I just wanted to make birdie.”
Tourinho’s wedge shot landed about 7 feet behind the hole and backed up, off the front edge of the green. He chipped in from there for his eighth birdie of the day (he started on No. 10).
“There was a right-to-left wind,” Tourinho noted after his morning round. “You have a lot of green to the right. There are going to be a lot of birdies on that hole.”
“It’s part of the fun to see the hole set up like that,” said Alvaro E. Ortiz, of Costa Rica. “You never know what you will see. I’m sure that somebody hit it into the water there, even though it’s a short hole.”
“I thought they wanted us to go low today and I just took advantage of it,” said Matias Dominguez, of Chile, who made one of his eight birdies on No. 8. “The wind was helping from the right, but going toward the water. That was the only challenge. I let it ride the wind a little bit to 15 feet away and made a good putt.”
The hole played to a 2.90 stroke average, the second-easiest of the day, with 27 birdies, 66 pars, 12 bogeys, one double bogey, one “other” and one ace. Nicolas Echavarria, of Colombia, made the first hole-in-one in LAAC history there on Friday afternoon, hitting his 58-degree wedge a few feet past and spinning the ball back into the hole.
Round 2 Notable Statistics
• The average age of the remaining players is 21.62, down from the starting field average of 23.84.
• Although the course played slightly shorter in Round 2 (7,156 yards to 7,233 yards for Round 1), the scoring average was higher, 76.71 to Round 1’s 75.95. The toughest holes in Round 2 were the 458-yard, par-4 18th (4.80 stroke average) and the 437-yard, par-4 ninth (4.69). Both holes, which played directly into the wind over water, registered more bogeys than pars on Friday.
• Nineteen of the original 28 countries will be represented for the final 36 holes. Nine of host country Argentina’s 10 players made the 36-hole cut. Other countries with the most players reaching weekend play are: Chile (6), Colombia (6), Mexico (6), Puerto Rico (5) and Brazil (4).
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.