Jorge Garcia (Christina Ferrante/CSMB Athletics)
There is nothing wrong with a well-timed par. This was an important takeaway from Jorge Garcia’s first trip to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic for the 2016 Latin America Amateur Championship. That kind of patience helped Garcia climb all the way to second that year – one shot behind champion Paul Chaplet.
The Teeth of the Dog course at Casa de Campo, a Pete Dye gem with seven holes running alongside the Atlantic, is not a place where there will be a birdie opportunity on every hole. So it’s a good thing that Garcia appreciates a good par and a better thing that he has so many competitive reps around this place.
In addition to the four rounds Garcia played at Caso de Campo in 2016 (71-72-69-74), he also played a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event there the same year. He proudly relates how a final-round 67 bumped him into the top 20. Still, his LAAC finish likely made more headlines.
“When I finished second here that year, a lot of people were texting me, ‘It was so close,’” said Garcia, a 22-year-old from Venezuela. “I felt like I learned a lot, in my mind I was so happy with what I did and putting myself in that position alone took a lot of guts.”
There are quite a few things that are different about Garcia this time than three years ago, but what has not
changed is the polite disposition, thoughtfulness and self-discipline that clearly drives Garcia’s decision-making where golf is concerned.
Back in 2016, Garcia was a freshman at the University of Florida. He was one of the top recruits from the class of 2015. Despite being in Gainesville, Fla., Garcia’s U.S. roots remained in Miami, where his swing coach and trainer were located. He was 12 when he moved from Venezuela to the U.S., but when his parents returned to their home country shortly after, it forced Garcia to grow up quickly.
At Florida, it became easy for him to lose track of where he was trying to go with golf. Results became too important, he started taking chances and making mistakes. It wasn’t a par game anymore.
“In golf, if you lose track of what you’re trying to do, it becomes clouded,” he said.
Even though his first two years at Florida were successful – to the tune of five top-10 finishes – Garcia transferred to Barry (an NCAA Division II school in Miami) in the fall of 2017. He made an impact quickly, finishing runner-up at the NCAA Division II National Championship that spring. This past fall, he finished inside the top 7 in all four starts with the Buccaneers. That included a win at the Flagler Jay Jennison Cup.
With his runner-up finish at the 2016 LAAC, Garcia earned exemptions into the final stage of qualifying for the Open Championship and the U.S. Open. It opened a lot of doors for him, even if one of them wasn’t at the end of Magnolia Lane. The LAAC winner famously receives an invitation to the Masters, but Garcia feels strongly that that shouldn’t overshadow the whole event.
“We shouldn’t base what this tournament means on the Masters exemption only,” Garcia said. “Truthfully, I just have had so many experiences with older players trying to get into this event and the young kids trying to get into it. I feel like a lot of players’ schedules revolve around his tournament.
“This tournament, it’s our one chance of the year to be on TV, to show the world what you’re capable of doing.”
Garcia cannot understate the importance of this event for Latin America. Each year, it’s like a homecoming – and a checkpoint for everyone else’s growth. Garcia has known some of this week’s opponents for 10 years or more.
For all the ways in which Garcia has changed in that time, there’s still a motto that drives his journey toward professional golf.
Beneath Garcia’s name on his Twitter page is the line firmness of purpose
. It reflects the soul-searching that brought him back to Miami, and reminds him not to put too much weight in what other people think. Garcia plays best when focused on his own path and when his self-worth and his golf-worth remain two separate things.
“Everybody always has the right answer for somebody who is not doing so great,” he said. “I noticed that whenever I was doing my best, I was doing it with self-belief and the people that have always been there.”
After his senior year, Garcia hopes to make his way onto the PGA Tour by way of mini tour here or there. He enlisted a cousin to help complete the application for PGA Tour Canada Qualifying School because that process overlaps the LAAC. The field fills quickly, Garcia explains, but if he doesn’t get in, perhaps it was meant to be. There’s also the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and hopefully, Web.com Tour Q-School at the end of it all.
“The pro life is kind of weird if you’re just starting,” Garcia said. “…I’m kind of new to this.”
Garcia laughs when he thinks about how far away he is from his original plan.
“I never planned on going to college for more than two years, now it’s all over in four months,” he said. “Time goes by really fast.”