Record of 6 Latin Americans in the PGA

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Record of 6 Latin Americans in the PGA

Joaquín Niemann spent his youth in Chile trying to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot Mito Pereira, who did not make things easy, winning prestigious amateur tournaments in the United States and Scotland and elsewhere.

Niemann had no trouble keeping up with Pereira in the first round of the PGA Championship.

Two of a record six Latin Americans in the competition, Neimann and Pereira shot rounds of 2-under 68 at Southern Hills, leaving them just four behind leader Rory McIlroy heading into the 2nd round on Friday.

“I remember when I was probably 12 or 13 years old and he was two years older and he was winning everything in Chile,” Niemann said. “He came to the United States and played in the Junior World Cup and I think he won it too. For me and all my friends, who grew up playing together, you will see Mito: ‘There’s Mito! He was awesome.”

Pereira was away from golf for a while and after his return he is playing better than ever. He made four birdies Thursday, including three on five holes toward the end.

“It’s nice to see two Chilean flags on the front page,” Nieman said. “And a Mexican too.”

There is a rich history of Latin Americans playing professional goals, but few have been contenders in major tournaments. And only two, both Argentines, have won: Roberto De Vicenzo by two strokes over Jack Nicklaus at the British Open in 1967 and Ángel Cabrera, who won the US Open in 207 and the Masters two years later.

But the new crop could become a force at the sport’s biggest events.

In fact, possibly this weekend.

Mexican Abraham Ancer, who has made the cut at all four majors and was eighth at the previous PGA Championship, started Thursday with a round of 67. That left him tied for fourth behind McIlroy, Will Zalatoris and Tom Hoge.

“I think I played really well for maybe a 5-under round,” he said. “But I’m not going to ask too much. I know it’s a tough field and things can quickly go in the opposite direction.”

That happened to his compatriot Carlos Ortiz, who opened with 79 shots. But aside from that, the Latin Americans did well.

Colombian Sebastian Muñoz and Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas are in a good position to survive the cut if they play well on Friday. Munoz shot a round of 74, the same as iger Woods, and Vegas had 73.

“We are basically a team,” Pereira said of the Latin American contingent. We come from another part of the world, so come here and we support each other. We have very good relations.”

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