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  • Yana Wilson

Wilson Looks Back On Her Experience Of Winning Her First Invitational & Playing in the HGV TOC

Over the second week of the new year, I was fortunate to play in my very first ANNIKA event played at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, Florida. I started the week off by playing a few practice rounds, which allowed me to meet some amazing golfers from around the world. Going into the week I was super excited to not only be able to play in competition again, but to get to meet Annika for a second time. I had first met Annika when I was about 12 years of age attending her Share My Passion Clinic in my hometown. After the clinic was over, she surprised me with an invitation I had been waiting to receive, to compete in the 2019 Drive, Chip, and Putt National Finals held at Augusta National Golf Club in April. Ever since then, I have looked up to Annika, and tried to have the same mindset out on the course as she did.

Entering the Invitational, I had no expectations, all I focused on doing was following my game plan, and to have fun on the course. I carried that feeling with me throughout all three days, and fortunately got my first Invitational win. Soon after I received my trophy, I was told that I would be playing in the amateur portion of the 2022 Hilton Grand Vacations LPGA Tournament of Champions a couple days after. I was so happy to hear this news, I immediately called my mom.

That Wednesday, I was fortunate to play in the Pro-Am which would serve as my practice round for the Tournament of Champions. I got to play alongside former professional basketball player, Deron Williams. The course was flawless, the hospitality was amazing, and everyone was so nice. I was thrilled to compete here throughout the week. Driving through the gate on the very first day of the tournament, I was not at all nervous, but excited. Everything that day felt special, from the time I ate breakfast at the clubhouse, to the time I sunk my last putt on the 18th green. The crowds, the roars, the cheers were all what made that tournament incomparable to any tournament I had played before. That day I was paired with Hee Young Park, and A Lim Kim, former U.S Women's Open champion. I learned a lot from both of those professionals and carried on what I learned from them throughout the rest of that week.

By the time the weekend came, I had met and played with multiple celebrities including Mark DeRosa (World Series Champion), Ben Higgins (2016 Bachelor), Larry the Cable Guy (Comedian), Alfonso Ribeiro (Actor/Comedian), Charles Woodson (Former NFL player), and many more. I had a blast playing with them and got a taste of what it’s like to play in an LPGA event. Entering the last day, I was thrilled to be in a good position to win the amateur portion of the event. After grinding it out on the course, I pulled out a win. After I had finished playing, I had a quick lunch then watched Annika do what she does best, coming down the stretch. I watched Annika make two pars on 17 and 18 to tie former MLB pitcher Derek Lowe, which forced a sudden death playoff. I was able to watch the playoff from inside the ropes which was unreal and got to know the Chief Operating Officer of the ANNIKA Foundation, Casey Ceman. Derek ended up making a clutch putt to win the playoff and take the title.

These two weeks were some of the most unforgettable weeks of my life so far. I met so many amazing people, created new friendships, learned a little more about the game of golf, and most importantly had fun. I can't wait to come back and play the 2023 Hilton Grand Vacations ANNIKA Invitational presented by Rolex.


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