Tanco sporting all-pro attitude in ’09
It wasn’t enough for Victoria Tanco to play in the U.S. Women’s Open. She had to steal the show for a couple minutes.
“It was great,” the 15-year-old Argentine says of a shot (go ahead, YouTube it) that sent huge galleries bonkers in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open last year.
As Tanco stepped up to her approach on the tough ninth hole at Interlachen Country Club, it’s important to note the thoughts that went through her head, considering the thoughts that didn’t go through her head.
Thoughts that went through her head:
• “156 yards to the hole.”
• “What side of the pin do I need to be?”
For Tanco, it’s usually that simple. Simplifying the shot process is one of Tanco’s major strengths, according to her instructor Shane Reiser. Reiser didn’t grasp the full strength of Tanco’s mental game until he experienced it first-hand as her caddie at the U.S. Girls’ Junior last year.
“It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about her,” Reiser says. “I got to see how great of a shot-planner she is. Every single shot she had a plan for, a very simple story that she was going to try to execute.”
Along with her mentality on the course, precise execution has been a hallmark of Tanco’s game over the past year. No. 2 in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings, Tanco’s run in junior golf has been unmatched, except maybe for the play of the only girl – and who one might call Tanco’s rival – above her in the rankings, Alexis Thompson.
Tanco collected two wins in AJGA invitationals last year at The Ping Invitational and Rolex Girls Junior Championship. Those two titles secured another title for Tanco by year’s end: Rolex Junior Player of the Year.
“My goal was to be player of the year, and I made it,” Tanco says. “And my goal this year is to again be player of the year.”
The Argentine, who discovered golf at age 6 when tennis and field hockey didn’t work out, speaks with conviction, not pride. Her self-assurance is expected, but not irritating.
She needed that self-assurance when she went toe-to-toe with Thompson in a five-hole, sudden-death playoff at the Junior Orange Bowl in December.
Tanco slipped into the playoff when Thomspon bogeyed the 72nd hole, and she eventually closed out Thompson with a par the fifth time the two played the par-4 18th.
The win was welcome redemption for a loss that Tanco suffered to Thompson in the round of 16 at the U.S. Girls’. Thompson went on to win the national title.
“It was great to beat her because she’s a great player,” Tanco said of Thompson.
The same could easily be said of Tanco, though she’ll never admit it. Work is never-ending for the 15-year-old. While at David Leadbetter’s IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Tanco trains tirelessly to improve her strength and conditioning, along with hours of practice under the watchful eye of Reiser.
When Tanco first came to Reiser three years ago, her posture needed strengthening, but her inconsistency with the flat stick was a glaring weakness in her game.
Now that she is firing on all cylinders, Reiser and Tanco are fulfilling her full potential as a team.
“She is very consumed with becoming the best possible player she can be,” Reiser says of his student. “There’s nothing she’s not good at.”
Tanco will bring that confidence into 2009, where she hopes to not only repeat as player of the year but make a name for herself on an even bigger stage.
Tanco will play in the LPGA’s Michelob Ultra Open May 7-10 on a sponsor exemption, and she plans on producing there what she has throughout the junior ranks.
But more important than the Michelob event is playing in the U.S. Women’s Open for a second consecutive year and improving upon her 74-81 showing that missed the cut.
“I want to qualify for the U.S. Open and play better there,” she says. “To play when I was 14, it was a great experience.”
A conversation with Tanco’s idol, Lorena Ochoa, reminded her of the reason she began playing golf in the first place.”
“She told me to have fun,” Tanco says.
Which brings us back to Tanco’s best shot in her appearance at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Tanco lined up her shot to the tough ninth hole. She knew her yardage, and knew where she wanted to put it.
She wasn’t thinking about the fact that superstar Michelle Wie had made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the same hole that same day, and she wasn’t thinking about the hundreds of people surrounding the green.
Tanco pulled 5-iron and let it fly.
When it found the cup for an eagle 2, Tanco had stolen the show. If only for those few minutes, she blew hundreds of people’s minds.
“I was really happy,” Tanco says of the moment.
Will she steal the show all over again in 2009?