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Watching Cabrera win fuels hopes for the week

Masters Journal: Jhonattan Vegas

Monday, April 04, 2011

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One of the surprise success stories of 2011, Jhonattan (pronounced Jonathan) Vegas is the first golfer from Venezuela to compete in the Masters Tournament. Winning the Bob Hope Classic in only his second start as a full-time member of the PGA Tour, the 26-year-old has a powerful game and charismatic personality, making him a popular player both in his native country and to U.S. golf fans. Jhonny Vegas will share his rookie Masters experience in a diary with The Augusta Chronicle:

Playing in the Masters is, I guess, a dream come true. This tournament and place is something that is on every golfer's radar. To play at the Masters will be phenomenal and something I have worked for my whole life. Like I said, it's one of those magical places in the world that everyone wants to be a part of. I'm extremely excited to be able to get a chance to play it, and it will be a lot of fun.

Tiger Woods winning in 1997 was the first Masters I ever watched. That was really cool and I still have that picture in my mind. I'm going to try to do the same thing this week in Augusta. I went to the Masters for the first time in 2009 and saw fellow South American Angel Cabrera win. He didn't put himself in any bad situations and came away with the green jacket. Looking at that, I have a little idea of what needs to be done and I am going to try and do it that way.

I took the Tampa tournament off and planned a day to come to Augusta to try to experience some of that magic and excitement and just enjoy being there the first time as a player! Just go myself, take my camera, play a round, and really get my first look at those famous greens. It was a huge help to take it all in before the week of the tournament.

I'm just looking forward to the whole thing. That's what's good about the Masters because there is such a feeling about the whole course and just a select field gets in. Just to be part of this week is amazing. I came to town after missing the cut in Houston to relax and get ready for a big Monday morning. I'm getting mentally ready for that, which is the key, because I know there is going to be so much excitement about being there that at times it can interfere with your golf game. I feel that my team and I have prepared well for everything and I am ready.

I have a practice round scheduled with Cabrera and I'm going to try to play one with Ben Crenshaw because he is a fellow Longhorn and obviously has some good knowledge of the course. He putts very well and would be a good person to listen to. I really want to get as much knowledge from people who have won here and played in many Masters because I hear this is a course where knowledge is key.

That is the reason it was so special to play with Jack Nicklaus last month at Seminole Golf Club after The Honda Classic. I was asking questions, he was responding. It was fun, just sharing that moment with a guy who has done, you know, so much for this game. One of the things that he said about the Masters was just keep it around the middle of the green, you're going to have a good chance making birdies from there. It was nice just to hear some of that advice and just to share a nice round with him.

I've got a big crowd coming with my sponsors and lots of friends and family going to be here. A lot of friends were able to get tickets in some other ways, so it's going to be nice to have everyone there. This is a big dream for my father, Carlos, as well. He told me, "Before I die, please get me to the Masters." It is one of his dreams just to walk across the Hogan Bridge. He said, "I'm afraid I'm going to pass away after that because too many dreams have come true in such a short time."

We're going to give it a try. He could be my swing coach for that week. He taught me to swing, so I think he qualifies for that. I really hope that we can do it and he can get to experience that because it's been his dream as well as mine. It's such a historic place that we have just got to see it on TV when we are growing up and just to be part of that is mind-blowing.

This is what I wanted. It's been a dream come true to win so early on the PGA Tour and now playing in the Masters.

I mean, it was a possibility, but to see it happen so quick, it's been crazy. And to my country, Venezuela, I hope this means a lot.

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