PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Reserved though she may be, even Victoria Tanco couldn’t avoid a wry smile Saturday afternoon at the mention of her latest accomplishment. After an unexpectedly short afternoon at the Women’s Western Amateur final, Tanco had almost as tough a time concealing her excitement at the new line on her resume – and how it was achieved – as she did remembering when she had hit a bad shot.
Tanco, 17, dispatched Emma Lavy from the 36-hole final at Sawgrass Country Club in a quick 24 holes, capping a week of exactly the kind of play that the young standout from Argentina has been seeking in the past year. The only mistake she could recall? A missed green at the par-3 third hole – the third from last hole of the match – that resulted in an up-and-down par from deep rough left of the green.
“I’m from South America, so we know how to do those shots,” Tanco said. “I hit a really nice shot and I made a very important par.”
It was one of many important pars for Tanco in Saturday’s final. She added six birdies and no bogeys over the 24 holes it took to claim the championship by a 13-and-12 score. Tanco spent the week under par at Sawgrass, opening with a course-record 5-under 66 in stroke-play qualifying.
“The course, it sets up good for my game,” she said. “I didn’t make much bogeys on the whole week. I hit a lot of fairways and greens, and I felt comfortable.”
Tanco trailed only once during the entire week, and that was against fellow 2012 classmate Jaye Marie Green, the reigning South Atlantic Amateur champion. Birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 righted that ship, and when Green bogeyed No. 17 Tanco sailed through to the Round of 16. From there, she beat Courtney McKim and Lovelyn Guioguio before a tight 1-up victory in the semifinals against reigning Big 12 champion Madison Pressel, a junior at Texas.
With newfound confidence from her good play in Ponte Vedra, Tanco jumped to a 3-up lead after four holes of the final match against Lavy.
“I was thinking, just keep playing the way I was playing,” Tanco said. “If she wants to win a hole, do it with a birdie; don’t make mistakes.”
As Tanco surged, Lavy concentrated on finding the game that had carried her to the final match after wins against fellow college players such as Tennessee’s Erica Popson, Vanderbilt’s Marina Alex and North Carolina’s Jackie Chang.
“She played great; she deserved it,” said Lavy, a redshirt sophomore at Arkansas. “I could have given a little more of a fight, I think, but I didn’t have it today. She’s a great player, so I’m proud of her.”
Tanco stomped on the accelerator during the second nine holes of the morning round, improving her lead from 5 up to 10 up by the 16th hole. Part of that was her continued aggression on a tight layout that had her hitting 3-wood off several tee boxes. As caddie Ruben Yorio pointed out, even with a significant lead, Tanco kept firing at pins. It became most apparent at the par-3 15th, where Tanco dropped her tee shot within 20 feet of a sucker pin bordered by water on the left side. Lavy put hers safely aboard the far right corner, and then made bogey to put Tanco’s lead in the double digits.
“She’s not scared to hit to the pin when they’re in the corner. That makes me feel good about her game,” Yorio said. “Even today when she was 5, 6 up, she’s still going to the pin. That’s good for her.”
Yorio and Tanco became friends through Yorio’s wife, Mara, with whom Tanco had played back home in Argentina. Yorio has been a professional caddie for 20 years, looping for Angel Cabrera at the 2009 Masters. He spent the first part of the year with Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, and was on the bag for Quiros’ victory at the Dubai Desert Classic in February.
The Women’s Western was just a tune-up for Yorio and Tanco as she prepares for a fourth U.S. Women’s Open start next month. Cutting the final match at the Women’s Western to a mere 24 holes was one way for Tanco to conserve some energy as she gears up for that tournament. She’ll also skip the AJGA’s Rolex Tournament of Champions in an effort to be fresh for the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. She’s gunning to make the weekend for the first time at this year’s Open.
“It has been always my goal, but this year hopefully I can play good and make the cut and have a good tournament,” she said.
Aside from the U.S. Women’s Amateur, where Yorio also will be on her bag, much of Tanco’s future remains up in the air. She plans to play LPGA Qualifying School in the fall as an amateur, and then will think about college. Many schools have shown an interest in her, but Tanco hasn’t made any campus visits yet.
A two-time Rolex Player of the Year and four-time AJGA Invitational winner, Tanco is relieved to see her game coming around after close to a yearlong rough patch.
“Last year, I’ve been struggling a little bit, but this year, I’m coming back and I feel much better, my confidence is better,” she said. “Last year, I was struggling a little bit from the tee, or maybe my irons were not that good. This year, I’m maybe more straight.”
Not to mention more comfortable in the winner’s circle.