Vegas Gets Lucky, Wins Wichita Open

By: PGA Email
By: PGA Email

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Jhonattan Vegas had waited a full year to win the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open, a tournament he let slip away on the final day in 2009. So what was an extra 90 minutes of waiting time?

Finishing eight groups ahead of the leaders after starting the day six strokes behind, Vegas took his 7-under 64 with him to the players' lounge, where he ate a sandwich and talked to his caddie, hoping his 20-under clubhouse lead would be enough to get him into a playoff. "I just relaxed and didn't pay attention to what was happening," Vegas said.

As it turned out, 20-under was enough to win, no playoff necessary. Vegas had seven birdies and no bogeys Sunday.

Vegas said he didn't think much about last year's final round at Crestview Country Club, where he took a two-stroke lead into the final round only to shoot a Sunday 74 to tie for fourth.

"Before the round today, I was talking to Fabian Gomez. We felt that if we got to 21 under, we would have a chance," Vegas added.

As 54-hole leader Roberto Castro and Steven Bowditch continued their rounds on the back nine, Vegas, a Venezuelan who lives in Austin, Texas, eventually left the players' lounge and made his way to the range to chip, putt and hit a few balls -- just in case. Castro and Bowditch headed to the par-5 18th hole one stroke behind Vegas.

"Them coming to 18, I was 100-percent sure there would be a playoff with 18 playing the way it was," Vegas said.

Bowditch eliminated himself from contention by hitting his drive out of bounds. He double-bogeyed the hole and tied for fourth. Castro's drive was in the left rough, and he short-sided himself with his second shot, with very little green to work with to a pin tucked on the right side. He couldn't get up and down for birdie to force the playoff. Castro's 20-foot putt slid by on the right.

"I hit [the approach] a little right, and with that wind it was done-zo," Castro said of his approach on the finishing hole. He faced a tricky flop shot to put himself in position on the green. "I told my caddie I have to get a look at the putt. I would make a 20-foot putt easier than I would if I flubbed the chip in the bunker and tried to hole out.

"It wasn't a putt I could rip in there," continued Castro, who shot an even-par 71 Sunday. "The greens were baked out and stepped on. But the key was my second shot. That was the mistake."

"For those guys not to birdie 18, I had to have a little luck on my side," added Vegas.

For Vegas, the win moved him to seventh on the money list, with $208,959, and virtually assured him of his 2011 PGA TOUR card. "I feel really confident about myself to have this win. To have something like this to hopefully take to the PGA TOUR is special."

Although disappointed, Castro was happy to know he is in the field for next week's Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo., based on his finish here. He also moved to 57th on the money list despite only playing three 2010 events. Most of his play this season has taken place on the mini-tours. "I haven't been playing out here, and now I'm going to get some starts," Castro said. "I'm excited I'm going to play some tournaments."

Also excited were Vegas' family and friends in both Venezuela and Texas. "I don't even want to look at my phone for texts," Vegas said. "It will just explode."

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