Colombia’s Hoyos leads Junior Orange Bowl golf

<cutline_leadin>Setting the pace</cutline_leadin>: Maria Hoyos has a four-shot lead after shooting a 3-under-par 68 on Monday.
<cutline_leadin>Setting the pace</cutline_leadin>: Maria Hoyos has a four-shot lead after shooting a 3-under-par 68 on Monday. Special to the Herald

At age 15, Maria Hoyos’ future has been pretty much mapped out for her.

That’s because of golf, and her capabilities playing that game.

Hoyos, who is leading the girls’ division of the Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship heading into Tuesday’s final round, moved from her native Colombia to the Orlando area in October.

Like many young golfers who have made an impression on the worldwide stage, she is changing homes so she can hone her swing in the United States. She will complete her remaining two-plus years of high school in Orlando while also attending a golf academy, and after that she fully intends to enroll in a U.S. college.

Her parents will remain in Colombia, but there will be plenty of travel back and forth by both them and Maria.

Leaving home has certainly made Hoyos nervous and a little bit sad, and the same goes for her parents, who watched her play Monday. “It’s sad because I won’t have the family around as much,” she said. “My parents are sad also, but they understand about golf and what I want to do. I do love golf, but being away from home is a big change.

“Sometimes, I want to be back in Colombia, but I also want to improve my golf game. That’s my motivation, and I am somewhat used to not being at home. Since I was 8, I have been traveling to play golf.”

The Junior Orange Bowl at Biltmore Golf Club in Coral Gables is one of those many trips she has taken much of her life, and so far she’s making the most of this event.

Hoyos grabbed a four-shot lead Monday with a nicely played 3-under-par 68 for a 5-under total of 208 for three rounds. Second-place Juwon Jeong of Korea will be playing catch-up after an even-par 71 left her at 212. In a three-way tie for third at 214 were Germany’s Leonie Harm, Brazil’s Luiza Altmann and Sweden’s Linnea Strom.

In the boys’ competition, Argentina’s Alejandro Tosti, with a 70 Monday, and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, with a 72, were tied for the lead with 3-under totals of 210.

Hoyos, younger and smaller than most of her opponents in the Junior OB, said winning the event would be the highlight of her young career.

“All the best golfers in the world are here,” she said.

Will she be nervous heading into Tuesday’s final round?

“I don’t know,” she said with a smile. “Maybe I will be and maybe I won’t be. I’ll find out when I start playing.”