The Spanish golfer had just come within a whisker of beating Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, finishing just one shot behind the eventual winner.
Commentators predicted a longstanding rivalry between them; the two rising stars of the field looked poised to go on and dominate the game.
"I'm really looking forward to what is going to come to me," grinned the ebullient talent then known as "El Nino" as he collected his award. "No more newcomers [awards]; hopefully something else!"
Almost two decades later, while Woods had won 12 more major tournaments, Garcia had entered 73 and fallen short on every single occasion.
That was until the 2017 Masters, when Garcia finally broke the curse and credited "love"
for helping him end his major heartbreak.
Now 38 years old, Garcia would not have expected to wait so long for his breakthrough.
But that is exactly what the past 12 months have been, as golf's nearly man cast off his shackles and dispelled the doubts he was "not good enough."
And so to Tuesday's 2018 Laureus Awards in Monaco, where Garcia was nominated once again for the "breakthrough award" -- only this time alongside fellow athletes young enough to be his children.
There could be no more deserving winner.
"To receive another Laureus Award trophy after receiving one in 2000 is a tremendous honor," said Garcia. "I've very, very happy with it."
He'll hope his next wait isn't nearly as long.
Federer doubles up
Garcia is not the only athlete that's enjoyed a resurgent 2017, and it was no surprise to see Roger Federer pick up the Laureus Sportsman of the Year and Comeback awards.
The Swiss tennis star won the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles to take his grand slam tally to 20, after five years without a major.
And the 36-year-old now has a record six Laureus awards over the course of his career, making him the most decorated athlete in the history of the so-called "Oscars of sport."
"I didn't believe I would ever come back to this level," said Federer, breaking into tears as he received the gong from tennis legend Boris Becker. "The year I had was something else."
"When I won my first Laureus Award back in 2005, if you had said I would end up winning six, I wouldn't have believed you. It's been an amazing ride."
Federer credited long-time rival Rafa Nadal for sustaining his level of performance.
"He had an unbelievable year himself," said the 36-year-old. "We had a great battle and it's because of a guy like him, I think I'm a better player.
"He could very well be here tonight standing here with this award because he's an incredible player, incredible friend and incredible athlete."
Federer's twin award win reportedly crashed the Laureus website, such was the volume of traffic.
Meanwhile Serena Williams was named Sportswoman of the Year after winning the Australian Open without dropping a set while eight weeks pregnant.
Formula One constructors' champions Mercedes picked up the Team of the Year accolade.
Departing Italian footballer Francesco Totti received the Exceptional Achievement award after over 750 appearances and 300 goals for boyhood club Roma.
The inspiring revival of Chapecoense, the Brazilian football team torn apart by a devastating plane crash, was named Best Sporting Moment.