Just how good was Jose Vega’s bogey-free 65 during the second round of the Latin America Amateur Championship on Friday? Let’s start by noting it was the fourth-lowest 18-hole score in the six-year history of the championship. But that doesn’t put it into the proper context given the conditions facing the field at Mayakoba Resort’s El Camaleon Golf Club. With winds howling again at a sustained 25 miles per hour and gusting closer to 35, Vega’s score was four strokes better than the next best round of the day and 12.8 strokes lower than the average for players on Friday.
Suffice it to say, it allowed the 26-year-old from Colombia to jump from T-11 after 18 holes to leading by three strokes over Chile’s Lukas Roessler after 36.
“I think it was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played,” said Vega, who made four birdie and a hole-out eagle on the round. “And playing on a stage like this, it’s even better.”
At No. 685 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Vega is playing in the LAAC for the first time, although he jokes that golf is more of a “hobby” these days than a serious pursuit. Vega spends more time watching other people swing clubs as he works as a regional director of sales for TrackMan, the launch-monitor company.
The desire to perform in Vega, who played college golf at Bellevue University in Nebraska until 2015, remains, however. “My mind and my way of living is just a competitive mindset,” Vega said. “I’m not here to be second. I’m not here to be third. I’m here to win.”
To do so, he’ll have to hold off a group of younger participants who linger on the leader board. Roessler, the 15-year-old younger brother of 2017 LAAC champ Toto Gana, sits in second place at even par after a Friday 72. Fellow Chilean Gabriel Morgan Birke, the highest ranked amateur in the field at 54th, and Argentina’s Abel Gallegos, are tied for third, four strokes off the pace.
Also looming is first-round leader Ivan Camilo Ramirez of Colombia, who followed an opening 68 with a second round 76 to fall into a tied for fifth, five strokes back.
All told, 52 players from 20 countries made the 13-over 155 cut. Chile has the most golfers advancing to the weekend with eight.