(Reuters) - Teenager Toto Gana of Chile sank a two-foot birdie putt to book a spot at this year’s Masters with a gripping playoff victory at the third Latin America Amateur Championship in Panama City on Sunday.
Gana, 19, clinched the title on the second extra hole at Club de Golf de Panama to edge out compatriot Joaquin Niemann and Mexican Alvaro Ortiz.
Ortiz, 21, parred the hole, the par-four 10th, and 18-year-old Niemann ran up a bogey after Gana had conjured a superb approach from just inside 100 yards for a tap-in to seal the win.
The trio had finished the 72 regulation holes at one-under-par 279, Gana and Ortiz both closing with one-over 71s and Niemann carding 70.
“I don’t realize yet what I’ve won,” Gana, speaking through an interpreter, said after being presented with the trophy by Royal & Ancient captain Keith MacIntosh. “Two days ago, I was nobody and now I can’t wait to play the Masters!”
Gana, who received his trophy with Augusta National chairman Billy Payne beaming in the background, also earned exemptions into both the British and U.S. amateur championships.
World number 285 in the amateur golf rankings, Gana had a chance to clinch the title in regulation with a 16-foot putt for par but his ball stayed out after grazing the right edge of the cup.
Ortiz, a junior at the University of Arkansas who is the younger brother of PGA Tour player Carlos Ortiz, came close to securing victory on the first extra hole, the par-four 18th, but lipped out with a birdie putt from 12 feet.
The Masters, the first of the year’s four major championships, will be played at Augusta National from April 6-9.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Larry Fine