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 stint 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 with The Augusta Chronicle:
Jhonattan Vegas hits an approach shot to No. 15 during Monday's practice round.
Jhonattan Vegas was paired with 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera as the South Americans started the back nine around 2:20 p.m. They finished their Monday practice round a little more than two hours after that, and Vegas said his father, Carlos, got to live his dream of watching his son on the course. Vegas said his father walked the course to follow him.
The Venezuelan played as the winds picked up throughout the day, but he made sure to take advantage of the opportunity to join the Masters tradition of skipping balls across the pond on No. 16.
After Cabrera went, Vegas tried the skip shot three times and later waved to the crowd, which loudly cheered when Vegas decided to do the skip a third time. When Vegas was done, Cabrera walked over to give him a high-five.
Besides showing his long-driving capabilities, Vegas tested the greens and bunkers on the holes by trying different shots.
He said he was very hungry after completing the practice round, and he tried to give himself some extra energy by eating a banana while walking after his tee shot on the 17th hole.
"We got here at midnight last night. So, yeah, we got here and went to bed. It was, pretty much, somewhere around six, 6 1/2 hours of sleep, so, you know -- good and quick. But we're here.
Jhonattan Vegas (left) and Angel Cabrera prepare to hit from No. 15. Vegas' father followed the pair during their practice round and got to see his son skip the ball across the pond at No. 16, drawing cheers from the fans.
"Augusta is great, man. It's in unbelievable shape. It's such a nice place. Everything -- the people, the crowds. It's such a good atmosphere. We came here for the first time 21/2 weeks ago. I just knew where some things were a little bit more. So that's always good. But, no, we still got a long way to go.
"We've become pretty good friends (with Cabrera) the past few months. He's won here and been here a few times. So it was great getting some of the information from that guy.
"I got my mom, my dad, got my girlfriend, my brother, I just got a good amount of people here with me. So it's good -- that's exciting. They're staying with me.
"So far, I'm just talking to Cabrera this week for advice. He gave me some pretty good insight on the course, which is always good here.
"I do think about the success a little bit, but I think we've got a little more to look for and just keep looking ahead instead of what we've done and try to keep going with the best team we can to get better."