To get you ready for the 2013 Masters, we are breaking down the amateurs and first-timers that will play at Augusta National starting on Thursday, April 11.
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Hometown: Cooper City, Fla.
How he qualified: Won, U.S. Amateur Public Links
When it comes to college golf, few players possess the name recognition of T.J. Vogel.
The Florida Gators senior has 18 career top 10s, has been named first-team All-Conference in both the SEC and Pac-12 (he played his first two seasons at USC), and was a second-team All-American as a junior after winning twice and leading UF to a T-12 finish at the 2012 NCAA Championship.
His work on the amateur scene is even more impressive, highlighted by a victory at last year’s U.S. Amateur Public Links, where he cruised to a 12-and-10 victory over former North Florida player Kevin Aylwin.
That record-setting victory earned him a spot in the field at Augusta National, where he will be one of six amateurs competing for a green jacket.
Vogel is coming off a fall season in which he finished T-7 or better in all four of his events, including tying for second at the Invitational at the Ocean Course. But he had surgery in December to repair three hernias and help eliminate groin pain.
“It’s something that I’ve had for a while,” Vogel said. “It was just time. I couldn’t practice during the offseason because I was in so much pain, so I wanted to get to the bottom of it.”
He hasn’t been the same since. Through four tournaments this spring, Vogel hasn’t finished better than T-12. He also has just one round in the 60s (a first-round 69 at the John Hayt).
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Vogel said. “I also had some issues with the putter and still being in pain. There was a stretch where we were on the road for three weeks straight, so that kind of set me back in terms of my rehabbing.”
Vogel said he lost a lot of strength and weight because of his surgery – and an early-year bout with the flu didn’t help his game, either. He won’t play for the Gators in the Gary Koch Invitational on April 8-9, so he enters the Masters coming off a T-22 finish at the Chris Schenkel Invitational on March 16-17. He shot 70-75-75 for a 4-over 220, third-best on the team.
But Vogel feels a high level of comfort when it comes to playing at Augusta National. He estimates he’s played the course about 13 times, including most recently two weeks ago. He planned to leave for Augusta on Friday, play a practice round Saturday and Sunday, then use the remaining days leading up to Thursday’s first round for additional practice.
“I’ve played it (the course) well,” Vogel said. “I feel comfortable on it. It fits my eye really well. I like to play a draw off the tee, which sets up really well there. I also tend to hit my iron shots high with a lot of spin, and that’s key there.
“The main thing will be the greens. They are something that I’ve never seen before (prior to playing Augusta).”
Putting figures to be Vogel’s Achilles heel at the Masters; that’s been his hurdle this spring. He said the key for him is to stay relaxed and to not put pressure on himself like he has for much of the spring with the Gators. It will be an environment unlike anything he’s ever seen before, but Vogel is excited for the opportunity.
“I’ve been working hard for this,” Vogel said. “I feel relaxed. My main goal is just to go out there and have as much fun as possible with all my friends and family watching.”
And low-amateur honors would be nice, too.