For much of the day in Round 2 of the inaugural Latin America Amateur Championship, players seemed to be engaged in a game of “Can you top this?”
Playing in the second grouping Friday off No. 10, Andre Tourinho, of Brazil, reeled off eight birdies in a round of 6-under-par 66 over the 7,255-yard, par-72 Pilar Golf course. Playing immediately behind him, Matias Dominguez, of Chile, matched Tourinho’s birdie total and edged him with a 7-under 65, which tied the course record. Then came Joaquin Bonjour, of host country Argentina, who converted nine birdies in the first 14 holes of his afternoon round.
That impressive run put Bonjour at 11 under for the championship, three strokes clear of the field. But then he undid much of his good work on the par-3 17th hole, knocking two balls into the water en route to a quadruple-bogey 7. Bonjour gathered himself to make par on No. 18, which played as the toughest hole of the day, to keep himself in contention for the championship.
By day’s end, Tourinho stood alone at 8-under-par 136, one stroke ahead of Dominguez and Bonjour at the halfway point of this 72-hole championship. The winner on Sunday will earn an exemption into the 2015 Masters Tournament and the 2015 British and U.S. Amateur championships, as well as spots in final-stage qualifying for the 2015 U.S. and British Opens.
“I actually hit the ball better yesterday,” said Tourinho, 24, who graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2012 and has been a member of the Brazilian National Team since, winning his national amateur in 2013 and 2014. “Today, I chipped in twice and putted really well.”
Tourinho had a run of five birdies in six holes from Nos. 11-16, and he got to 8 under by chipping in from in front of the green on the par-3 eighth, his second-to-last hole of the day. That hole is listed at 151 yards, but championship director Jeff Hall moved the teeing ground up more than 50 yards for Round 2, to 95 yards. On Friday afternoon, it yielded the first hole-in-one in Latin America Amateur history, as Nicolas Echavarria, of Colombia, hit a 58-degree wedge that landed a few feet past the hole and backed in for an ace.
Dominguez carded the fifth competitive round of 65 at Pilar Golf, which includes one by two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, in the 2006 Argentine Open. However, Pilar Golf played to a par of 71 in those events, making Dominguez the first to finish 7 under.
Dominguez, 22, is a senior at Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, and is one of three Red Raider golfers competing here, along with freshman Guillermo Pereira, also of Chile, and senior Esteban Restrepo, of Colombia. Pereira is the top player in the field in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ at No. 6, and he stands five strokes behind Tourinho at 3-under 141, in a tie for eighth place.
Bonjour, 21, shrugged off his struggles on No. 17, which measured 158 yards but played directly into the wind to an island green. His tee shot kicked down a slope to the right of the green into the water, and after a drop, he left his next shot short in the hazard.
“I just made a wrong judgment,” he said. “I executed the shot I was looking for, but it went about a meter more to the right than it should have gone. If I focus only on the bad hole I had, I eliminate myself from the competition.”
Bonjour will join Tourinho and Dominguez in the final grouping for Saturday’s third round at 9:10 a.m.
The 36-hole cut to the low 60 players and ties came at 8-over-par 152, with 62 players making it through to the weekend. The leader board is well rounded, with three players from Argentina, three from Chile and three from Costa Rica among the top 14, joined by two from Colombia and one each from Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay. Among the trio from Costa Rica are Alvaro E. Ortiz, 46, the oldest to make the cut, and Paul Chaplet, 15, the youngest player in the field.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.