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  • Writer's pictureANNIKA Foundation

Ximena Benites Leads The Way After The First Round of The Women’s Amateur Latin America Championship

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Peru’s Ximena Benites leads the way after the first round of the Women’s Amateur Latin America championship presented by The R&A and ANNIKA Foundation.

The 16-year-old defied the tough, windy conditions that persisted over the Blue and White course at Pilar Golf to post an impressive two-under-par 70 which included four birdies in five holes on the back nine.

The Peruvian is being closely followed by a chasing pack of six players who sit one shot further back on one-under-par. The group includes Valentina Rossi, Maria Morales, Vanessa Gilly, Daniela Ballesteros and Mexican duo Ana Isabel Gonzalez and Lauren Daiana Olivares.

“I felt like I played a very good round today and even though I made a couple of mistakes, I was able to post a good score,” said Benites.

“I very much followed a game plan today and my putting was crucial, especially as the greens at Pilar Golf are difficult. They are undulating so you really need to think carefully about where to aim the ball.

“I felt relaxed today and think that was important to how I played and the score of 70. I also enjoyed a good practice round yesterday, so I was confident about my game. I need to keep playing the same way for the rest of the week.”

Hopes of a home win currently rest with Rossi, who reached the semi-finals of the US Women’s Amateur Championship last year and is a former Argentina Women’s Amateur champion.

The 21-year-old endured a difficult start to the round with back-to-back bogeys on the 5th and 6th holes but finished strong on the back nine where she made eagle on the par-5 13th and birdies on the 16th and 18th holes.

“I didn’t start the round as I wanted after making two bogeys but was happy with the two birdies that I made at the end of the round,” said Rossi.

“I had to be patient during the round due to the wind and if I can improve my performance around the greens then I think I can do well this week.”

Gilly, who won her national amateur and match play championships in Venezuela this year, played steady golf, mixing in four birdies and three bogeys on her way to an opening 71.

“My round was pretty solid, and I remained consistent in how I was hitting the ball,” she said.

“With the strong wind, it was pretty tough out there but I was able to put most of the shots where I wanted on the fairways. The greens are difficult with the pin positions and undulating greens but I think I coped well with them.”

Four players, including Sofia Clarisa Temelo, Michelle Melandri, Maria Fernada Martinez and Valentina Bosselmann shot 72 to finish a shot further back on level par.

Maria Marin Negrete, the top-ranked player in the field (number 64 in WAGR®) and runner-up in last year’s championship, finished three shots off the pace although the Colombian remains very much in contention to go one better than her finish in 2021.

The Women’s Amateur Latin America championship presented by The R&A and the ANNIKA Foundation follows the successful introduction of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship by The R&A in 2018. Its aim is to strengthen the pathway to the very highest levels of golf by providing a platform for the region’s best women’s amateur golfers to compete against each other.

The winner of the Women’s Amateur Latin America championship will earn exemptions into three major championships, including the AIG Women’s Open, Amundi Evian Championship and Chevron Championship, as well as the Women’s Amateur Championship and the Hilton Grand Vacations ANNIKA Invitational presented by Rolex.

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