April 6 marked the start of the 81st Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National golf club in GA. This year’s tournament had a little bit more significance for Lynn, as one of their very own from the men’s golf team participated for the first time.
After securing the victory in the Latin America Amateur Championship in January that gave him an automatic bid to Augusta, Lynn freshman sensation Toto Gana took this year’s tournament as an opportunity not only to represent Lynn University and all of Division II golf, but his home country of Chile as well.
“Representing Chile was incredible because I was just the third Chilean golfer to even play in the Masters, so being there for my home country meant a lot,” Gana said. “I don’t know how high their expectations were for me, but all my friends sent me encouraging messages saying ‘Come on, Come on, you can do it,’ so that for me was the best part.”
Although Gana did not have the tournament that he wanted, he still took the experience as a learning opportunity and has high expectations for himself to be back at Augusta again in the near future.
“I would’ve obviously loved to make the cut, but I really just wanted to play well and it was just surreal to be surrounded by so many of the best golfers in the world,” Gana said. “It was just an all-around amazing experience.”
Looking back on the tournament as a whole, Gana is not disappointed in himself. Being just the third golfer from his country to even get to the Masters, Gana is also the youngest ever out of the three to do so at 19-years-old.
“Hopefully, I can be back there a couple more times,” Gana said. “Now I feel a lot better about it because that experience was just so much for me. It’s not like I am a new player now, but kind of. Taking everything in, the experience, the pressure and all of the people surrounding the course, it was just amazing. So now coming back to finish the season at Lynn, I feel different-with more confidence and experience.”
As if it was not enough to just be in the presence of so many great golfers, Gana was excited about one in particular that he was able to learn from during the tournament.
“I played with Vijay Singh and he told me a lot of good things, so I just felt really good,” said Gana.
Despite his experience playing golf, Gana was met with added pressure prior to the tournament’s start, due to its global influence.
“I prepared the same as for any other tournament,” he said. “I practiced my approach and my long game, I had just played a tournament for school, so I felt really prepared and really good. I felt pretty chill before the tournament, I mean obviously once it was time to tee off, I felt it a little bit, but that’s normal. I was just living in the moment and enjoying every second of it.”
With this year’s Masters Tournament in the books, Gana is optimistic that he will make his way back to Augusta soon and all those supporting him maintain the same faith that he will make a quick return.