Vogel claims stunning APL victory over Aylwin

T.J. Vogel with the U.S. Amateur Public Links trophy.

T.J. Vogel with the U.S. Amateur Public Links trophy.

MIDWAY, Utah – T.J. Vogel couldn’t explain it, but he awoke Saturday morning knowing he’d win the final of the U.S. Amateur Public Links. “I had that feeling today,” he said. “I can’t tell you why. I just knew I was going to play well. There was no way I was losing today.”

His instinct was correct, as he dominated North Florida’s Kevin Aylwin, 12 and 10, in the scheduled 36-hole match. Vogel almost matched the U.S. Golf Association record for largest margin of victory in a 36-hole final (12 and 11). That mark was first set in 1895, by C.B. Macdonald in the first U.S. Amateur, and matched by Jim Sorenson in the 1985 U.S. Amateur Public Links.

Vogel didn’t set a record, but he was impressive, nonetheless. He made 10 birdies, no bogeys and didn’t lose a single hole to Aylwin. And for that Vogel earns an expected invitation to next year’s Masters. After completing his champion’s duties, Vogel walked to Soldier Hollow’s parking lot, grabbed his gold medal and said, “This isn’t real.” The round may have felt like a dream, but it most definitely was reality.

He built a 5-up lead after nine holes thanks to two birdies and no bogeys. But he put the match away by making birdie on six of the final seven holes in the morning round. His eight birdies and no bogeys gave him a 10-up lead midway through the 36-hole final.

“I didn’t even notice,” Aylwin said of Vogel’s impressive close to the morning round. “I was just trying to keep my head above water. I knew it was something good because I made two 20-footers and chipped in and was still 10 down.”

Vogel, a Florida senior, was aware of the margin-of-victory record when he started the afternoon round. Heavy rains frustrated him, and slowed his pace, but he still didn’t lose a hole. He won the par-3 fifth hole with par and ended the match on the par-5 eighth, reaching the green in two with a wood, then two-putting from 25 feet for victory.

Vogel’s march through the match-play bracket wasn’t as easy as his performance in the final may indicate. He finished second in the tournament’s stroke-play portion, but three of his first four matches went to the 18th hole. “I could have been going home,” Vogel said. “All I tried to do this week was stay very calm, even-keeled no matter what. I think that was probably the key to my success this week actually, being able to control my emotions under pressure.”

Vogel, who wore NBA logo socks each round, used to blast rap music through oversized headphones while warming up for events. He switched this week to more mellow selections, such as Beyonce and Chris Brown. “I used to get too pumped up,” he said. “I figured out that’s not the way to go.”

Vogel also found a swing key – he tried to feel he was “bumping” his left hip toward the target at the start of the downswing – during the closing stages of his quarterfinal victory over Alberto Sanchez. Vogel won that match, 1 up, with birdies on two of the final three holes. He made seven birdies in his next match, a 4-and-3 victory over 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links runner-up Derek Ernst, leading Ernst to predict, “I think he’s going to win tomorrow, and not by a little bit.”

He was correct.

“I got out of bed and I wasn’t even nervous,” Vogel said. He’s usually too nervous to eat much before rounds, but downed an egg McMuffin and blueberry muffins for breakfast Saturday. “I didn’t have any swing thoughts today. If you don’t have any swing thoughts, you’re playing well.”

This victory came after a strong season that saw Vogel finish ninth in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and earn second-team All-American honors. This was his first season at the University of Florida after transferring from USC. He said he made the move to be closer to his family’s Miami home. His father, Joe, is his instructor and caddied all week for his son. He wore a brace on his right knee in the later rounds after tearing his meniscus on Soldier Hollow’s steep hills. Will Joe Vogel be on the bag come Masters week? “Even if he’s in a wheelchair,” T.J. Vogel said.

Joe Vogel will gladly accept the assignment. “You always dream of him winning a major championship,” he said, “but you don’t expect him to win it like he did today. It turned out to be about perfect.”

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