Age: 25 Current Residence: Orlando, Fla. Hometown: San Jose, Costa Rica Home Course: Grand Cypress Golf Club, Orlando, Fla. Profession: Professional Golfer
The first female professional golfer from Costa Rica to compete in the United States, Gloriana Soto has a philosophy that has yielded success throughout her young golfing career: “Always go with your gut instinct.”
Born and raised into a golfing family in San Jose, Costa Rica, Soto was introduced to the game by her father and grandfather at age 8. She took to the game instantly, and quickly realized that her dream was to one day compete on the LPGA Tour.
“Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a professional golfer,” explained Soto.
From age 9-16, Soto competed against boys, and quickly became one of the top junior golfers in Costa Rica. She also soon realized that in order to follow her dreams, she needed to leave her native country. Her grandfather sent her to the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for a week when she was 15, and recalls it being one of the best weeks of her life.
“I loved every minute of it,” recalled Soto. “I was able to practice with these great instructors all week. At that point, it was the best experience I had in my life.”
It was after she returned home to Costa Rica that she listened to her first of many “gut feelings” that have navigated the course of her life. Her grandfather offered to pay for her tuition for her junior and senior years of high school, and she enrolled full time at the Leadbetter Academy.
While it was a tough decision to leave home, she knew deep down this was the opportunity she needed to continue to pursue her dream. The Academy helped her become a well-rounded individual on and off the course, preparing her for collegiate golf and life after high school.
“Being in the Academy was absolutely amazing,” said Soto.
She was recruited by multiple colleges her senior year. Ultimately, she committed to Texas Tech University without ever visiting the school or the state of Texas.
“I am a person that goes by feelings. How I feel. I always trust my gut instinct. Something inside told me Texas Tech was the place to go.”
Even though she was scared about her decision, she knew it was the right one. She learned a lot about herself in college, including playing – and thriving – under pressure.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Exercise Sports Science in 2009, Soto immediately turned professional. In her first full-year on the Symetra Tour in 2011, her game struggled. She missed cuts. Frustrations set in. She knew she needed to make some changes. So, she again listened and trusted her gut instinct.
She hired a new caddy without ever meeting him.
“It really is a funny story,” joked Soto. “One of the caddies on tour knew of a friend who was looking for a caddie job. When I told him I was looking, he called him, and handed the phone to me. We talked about a deal and I hired him on the spot.
“I just had a gut feeling about this guy, that he was the right caddie for me.”
She made five cuts in the final six events in 2011 with her new caddie on the bag. Prior to that, she had not made a cut all season. She advanced to the final stage of LPGA Q-School, and is competing on a full schedule on the Symetra Tour in 2012.
It also was her caddie, Ben Sloan, who suggested she audition forBig Break. When she asked him why, he told her simply, “I have a very good feeling about this.”
Soto is competing onBig Break Atlantiswith new-found confidence in her game. Being the first female professional golfer from Costa Rica, she also is striving to be an inspiration to her native country, telling everyone that will listen to never give up on your dreams.
“You have to work hard but you have to follow your dreams,” said Soto. “That’s the only way to succeed in life.”
Heading into the competition onBig Break Atlantis, Soto revealed a secret. She has a good feeling .