Defending champion Toto Gana tied for 18-hole lead at Latin America Amateur

Defending champion Toto Gana tied for 18-hole lead at Latin America Amateur

Amateur

Defending champion Toto Gana tied for 18-hole lead at Latin America Amateur

A year later and in his home country, Toto Gana does not seem set to give up his crown.

The Chilean fired a 3-under 68 on Saturday at Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago, Chile, to earn a share of the 18-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

This time last year, Gana defeated countryman Joaquin Niemann and Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz in a playoff to capture this event and earn a spot in the Masters (where Gana would shoot 81-80 and miss the cut).

Not much has changed in this follow-up thus far. Gana is on top, tied with Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres, as they all fight for the Masters spot given to the tournament’s winner.

Ortiz, a senior at Arkansas, is just one back through 18 holes. Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world who will turn pro after this event if he doesn’t win, struggled to a 3-over 74 that has him T-37. He has good company there, though, with 2016 champion Paul Chaplet also at that number with 54 holes to go.

Just 15 players in all in the 105-man field broke par in a difficult first round.

Gana, 20, is currently a sophomore for Lynn, a team ranked third in the Bushnell/Golfweek D-II Coaches Poll. Gana posted all top-25 showings in the fall, including a T-5 and a T-8. His freshman campaign saw him post five top-15 finishes.

Gana competed in a pro event at Prince of Wales Country Club in November, placing in a tie for 12th.

He’s looking to become the first back-to-back winner as well as two-time champion of this week’s event, now in its fourth year. Another Gana win would also mean a third Chile victory at the Latin America Amateur in its four years.

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