Alvaro Ortiz, Toto Gana share Latin America Amateur lead
PANAMA CITY (AP) Alvaro Ortiz of Mexico and Toto Gana of Chile handled the breezy conditions Saturday to share the lead in the Latin America Amateur Championship and go into the final round with a spot in the Masters at stake.
Ortiz, a junior at Arkansas, started playing conservatively when the wind picked up at Panama Golf Club and shot a 3-under 67. Gana picked up two birdies down the stretch to salvage a 69.
They were at 2-under 208, one shot ahead of 18-year-old Joaquin Niemann of Chile, who had a 67.
The winner gets an invitation to the Masters and is exempt into the final stage of qualifying for the U.S. Open and British Open.
Ortiz is the younger brother of Carlos Ortiz, who has played on the PGA Tour the last two years. He has represented Mexico each of the last two times in the World Amateur Team Championship. He opened with a birdie and an eagle early ahead of the blustery conditions.
''The wind came up and that changed my strategy a little bit,'' Ortiz said. ''I started playing for the middle of the green.''
Gana is trying to become the second Chilean to win the Latin Amateur after Matias Dominguez at the inaugural event two years ago. He is close friends with Niemann, and they share the same coach. Ortiz, Gana and Niemann will be in the final group Sunday.
''I'm trusting my swing, and the most important thing is that my head is in a good place,'' Gana said. ''I'm going to play with my friend Joaquin, and it will be a battle between the two of us.''
Alvaro E. Ortiz of Costa Rica, who at 48 was the oldest player to make the cut, had six bogeys on his way to a 73. He still is just two shots behind at even-par 210. Also at 210 was Nicolas Echavarria of Colombia, who played with Ortiz at Arkansas.
Echavarria said he would turn pro if he doesn't win Sunday. Otherwise, he will stay an amateur to play in the Masters.
Ortiz, the co-leader, said he would be aggressive on Sunday because he's confident how he is hitting the ball. He already was thinking about what it would be like to play at Augusta National, especially because older brother Carlos has yet to make it.
Carlos Ortiz lost his card last year and is playing on the Web.com Tour.
''I've only beaten him a couple of times in my life,'' Ortiz said about his older brother. ''To get to the Masters before him would be special.''