CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas teed off in his second British Open at 10:31 a.m. local time Thursday. But he almost didn’t.
A week earlier, Vegas found out that his visa was expired. He had misread the expiration date and instead of leaving last Thursday for Scotland, he found himself applying for a new visa. The consulate in New York didn’t respond until Monday, and when it did Vegas was informed he had filled out the wrong application. He fixed the issue and was supposed to get his new visa and fly out of Houston on Tuesday.
“I literally waited in a car in front of the consulate in Houston for seven hours, hoping for that visa to show up that day,” Vegas said.
It didn’t. A UPS shutdown delayed the delivery and Vegas didn’t receive his visa until Wednesday morning.
“Everything seems to be against me,” Vegas said on Twitter. “… This is going from bad to worse but I will do everything to get to my tee time.”
Vegas eventually got on a Wednesday flight from Houston connecting to Glasgow through Toronto. He landed in Glasgow, about two hours from Carnoustie, at about 8:45 a.m. He then hopped on a helicopter and rushed to the course.
By 9:50 a.m. Vegas was on the driving range in his golf attire – a pink Nike shirt, white pants and white shoes. Waiting for him was his caddie, Ruben Yorio, among others, along with two staff bags, one Mizuno and the other Titleist, and several clubs. His normal clubs hadn’t arrived. They were still in Toronto.
“To me, it almost seemed like it was a horror movie happening for the past week,” Vegas said. “Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose, I think you couldn’t really do it.”
Vegas worked through the makeshift set, which included Titleist irons and wedges – Vegas normally plays Mizuno – and TaylorMade woods and putter. While hitting the TaylorMade driver, Vegas asked for a tool to adjust it. Someone had to rush to go find one.
“I started hitting the ball on the range, and some of the shots were going somewhat straight, especially with the irons,” Vegas said. “It was like, you never know. I’m a positive guy. I’m going to go and give it a try and see what happens in kind of the end.”
Through it all, Vegas was smiling. As he walked off the range after about 20 minutes and headed to the chipping area, he quoted Allen Iverson: “Practice?! Practice?! Who needs practice?!”
With new clubs and some adrenaline surely flowing, Vegas made just one birdie and shot 5-over 76. He was only 1 over through eight holes, but said he ran into trouble once he started hitting more drivers off the tee.
Still, Vegas was happy just to have a chance to play.
“As long as I had a shot at making it, I was going to go for it,” Vegas said. “I’m sure, if you tell anyone in the world, hey, you’re going to have a chance to play the Open Championship, even if you show up two hours before the time, everyone in the world would take it.
“… If I would have had a different attitude, I would have broken a few clubs by now.”