UF golfer tees off with greatness at Masters
Published: Monday, April 8, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 11:15 p.m.
After playing more than a dozen practice rounds at Augusta National Golf Club this year and watching two previous events as a patron, T.J. Vogel is still awestruck at the thought of teeing off for the first time at the Masters Tournament.
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As one of six amateurs schedules to compete at the tradition-rich major this week, Vogel knows controlling his nerves will be an issue entering Thursday's opening round at Augusta, Ga.
“Obviously, playing in front of 50,000 people, that's different from anything I've ever experienced,” he said. “So I'm just going to try to embrace it and not get intimidated by the crowd.”
Vogel, a senior on the UF men's golf team, earned an invitation to the PGA Tour event by winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship last July by the second-largest margin in the tournament's history.
While Vogel said Augusta National's fast, sloping greens will be tougher to contend with than any course he's experienced, he will have the same familiar face carrying his clubs as he did during his near record-breaking performance at the APL — his father, Joe Vogel.
“For my dad to be able to caddie for me in a major, I just didn't know if it would ever happen, because he's getting older,” Vogel said.
“He's in his 50s now, and honestly when you're growing up, you don't know how long it's going to take to get to the PGA Tour and eventually get invited to the majors. To get this opportunity this young, it's pretty special and I'm really looking forward to it.”
Along with his father, who is a PGA professional and coach of FIU's women's golf team, Vogel will also be leaning on the advice of Gators coach Buddy Alexander during the tournament.
Alexander once competed as a 34-year-old amateur at the 1987 Masters and said he has played roughly 100 rounds on the prestigious course. While he praised Vogel's ability off the tee and his golf IQ, Alexander said the 22-year-old Vogel will need consistent putting and mental preparation to make the second-round cut on the challenging course.
“Everybody goes, ‘Just go up there and enjoy yourself,' but it's not quite that easy,” Alexander said. “As a competitor, you want to be competitive. He's not a principle factor in this event, unless he happens to play great in the first couple of days. But as a competitor you go into that thing thinking that you are.”
Though Vogel is winless this year and has just three top-10 finishes after undergoing hernia surgery in December, he said lingering pain from the procedure is no longer a problem.
Vogel left Friday for Augusta, where he plans to play the course several more times before focusing on his practice sessions and Wednesday's Par-3 Contest. His tournament pairings and tee times for the first two rounds will be announced Tuesday.
“I want to be low (amateur); that's my goal,” Vogel said. “But I'm not going to let that get in the way of having fun. I'm not going to try to get caught up putting too much pressure on myself to get that. I just need to go out and have fun. The more relaxed I am, the better I'm going to play.”