Toto Gana will be headed to the Masters come April
PANAMA CITY, Panama (January 15, 2017) --
Memorable is the only word to describe what
on Sunday in the final round of the third Latin
Amateur. Toto Gana of Chile led by one shot heading
the 72nd hole and he had a 10-foot par putt for the
but when the putt lipped out and his playing
partners --Joaquín Niemann and Alvaro Ortiz--
the three were level at 1-under and headed for extra
The trio all parred the first playoff hole, the par-4
with Ortiz having the best chance at a birdie, only to
have his putt just slide by.
Play now shifted to the 386 yard par-4 10th hole and
who rose to the occasion.
“My opponents had hit – one to the left and one to
right,” said Gana, whose name means “win” in
“I thought to myself, I have the advantage now.”
But could he execute? The answer was a resounding
yes, with just 99-yards left after his tee shot Gana
knocked his 52-degree
wedge to two-feet setting up the putt that would
ultimately punch his ticket to Augusta National and
Masters this April.
“I hit the best shot I’ve hit in my whole life, at the
time,” said Gana. “I’ve never felt this feeling in my
Gana, who begins his career at at Division II Lynn
University in two weeks, started the
day in a share of first place with Ortiz
and he played steady for much of the day as he
two birdies and three bogeys. His birdies came on
4th and 15th holes. Maybe his most important birdie
the round was his first, as it helped him bounce back
from a bogey on No. 2.
Arkansas junior Alvaro Ortiz, from Mexico, had to
his way back into the
picture late after he double-bogeyed No. 10 and at
time fell to even-par. Looking to bounce back Ortiz,
younger brother of PGA Tour player Carlos Ortiz,
birded No. 12 and then following a bogey on the
he birdied the 17th hole.
“On No. 10, I made a double bogey from the middle
the fairway,” said Ortiz, who finished tied for third in
first LAAC in 2015 at Pilar Golf in Buenos Aires,
Argentina. “And on No. 15 [a drivable, 280-yard par
I hit a perfect 3-wood to the middle of the green and
three-putted [for par]. That was the one that I really
thought was going to cost me. But I’m just happy
gave myself a chance to win again."
After finishing tied for third last year, World No. 5
Joaquín Niemann once more had a chance to claim
is proving to be an allusive title. Starting the day one
back the USF signee played an even-par final round
included a double-bogey, bogey stretch on Nos. 8
9. The native of Chile rebounded throughout his day
with birdies on the 3rd, 5th, 10th and 17th holes.
First round leader, 17-year-old Julian Périco of Peru
48-year-old Alvaro E. Ortiz of Costa Rica shared
with an even-par tally. Ortiz had been the leader
the second round and he was the oldest player to
the cut. Périco, the youngest player in the field,
certainly turned some heads this week, especially
his opening day 6-under 64.
Besides earning an exemption into the Masters, Gana
also exempt into this years British Amateur, U.S.
Amateur and also the final stages of U.S. Open and
British Open qualifying.
Runner-ups Ortiz and Niemann have earned
into the final stages of U.S. and British Open
as a result of their finishes.
Defending champion Paul Chaplet ended up 8-over
in a tie for 16th while inaugural winner Matias
Dominguez was tied for 14th at 7-over.
Editors Note: The LAAC contributed to this
ABOUT THE Latin America Amateur
Founded by the Masters Tournament, The R&A and
the USGA, the LAAC was established to further
develop amateur golf in South America, Central
America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The LAAC is a
72-hole stroke play event open to a field of 108
amateur players in Latin America, chosen by their
respective national federations according to their
World Amateur Golf Ranking. Past winners of the
championship, as well as last year’s top-five
finishers, are automatically entered into this year’s
The LAAC champion annually receives an invitation
to compete in the Masters at Augusta National Golf
Club, and the the British Open Championship. In
addition, the winner and the runner(s)-up
are exempt into the final stages of qualifying for the
US Open Championship. The
is also awarded full exemptions into The Amateur
Championship, the US Amateur Championship and
any other USGA amateur championship for which he
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