Toto Gana wins Latin America Amateur on Second Playoff Hole
Toto Gana will be headed to the Masters come April <br>(LAAC Photo)
Toto Gana will be headed to the Masters come April
(LAAC Photo)

PANAMA CITY, Panama (January 15, 2017) -- Memorable is the only word to describe what transpired on Sunday in the final round of the third Latin America Amateur. Toto Gana of Chile led by one shot heading for the 72nd hole and he had a 10-foot par putt for the win but when the putt lipped out and his playing partners --Joaquín Niemann and Alvaro Ortiz-- parred the three were level at 1-under and headed for extra holes.

The trio all parred the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th 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 it was Gana who rose to the occasion.

“My opponents had hit – one to the left and one to the right,” said Gana, whose name means “win” in Spanish. “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 the Masters this April.

“I hit the best shot I’ve hit in my whole life, at the best time,” said Gana. “I’ve never felt this feeling in my body before.”

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 carded two birdies and three bogeys. His birdies came on the 4th and 15th holes. Maybe his most important birdie of 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 fight his way back into the picture late after he double-bogeyed No. 10 and at the time fell to even-par. Looking to bounce back Ortiz, the younger brother of PGA Tour player Carlos Ortiz, birded No. 12 and then following a bogey on the 14th he birdied the 17th hole.

“On No. 10, I made a double bogey from the middle of the fairway,” said Ortiz, who finished tied for third in the first LAAC in 2015 at Pilar Golf in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “And on No. 15 [a drivable, 280-yard par 4], I hit a perfect 3-wood to the middle of the green and I three-putted [for par]. That was the one that I really thought was going to cost me. But I’m just happy that I 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 what is proving to be an allusive title. Starting the day one back the USF signee played an even-par final round that included a double-bogey, bogey stretch on Nos. 8 and 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 and 48-year-old Alvaro E. Ortiz of Costa Rica shared fourth with an even-par tally. Ortiz had been the leader after the second round and he was the oldest player to make the cut. Périco, the youngest player in the field, certainly turned some heads this week, especially with his opening day 6-under 64.

Besides earning an exemption into the Masters, Gana is 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 exemptions into the final stages of U.S. and British Open qualifying as a result of their finishes.

Defending champion Paul Chaplet ended up 8-over and in a tie for 16th while inaugural winner Matias Dominguez was tied for 14th at 7-over.

Editors Note: The LAAC contributed to this story

Results: Latin America Amateur
1ChileTomas GanaChile100068-71-69-71=279
T2MexicoAlvaro OrtizMexico70071-70-67-71=279
T2ChileJoaquin NiemannChile70072-70-67-70=279
T4PeruJulian PericoPeru50064-75-72-69=280
T4Costa RicaAlvaro E. OrtizCosta Rica50071-66-73-70=280

View full results for Latin America Amateur

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 championship.

The LAAC champion annually receives an invitation to compete in the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, the U.S. Open and the British Open. The champion is also awarded full exemptions into The Amateur Championship, the US Amateur Championship and any other USGA amateur championship for which he is eligible.

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