Vegas becomes hero in Venezuela for first PGA Tour victory at Bob Hope

jhonattan vegas
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Jhonattan Vegas hopes his success will help point golf in a more positive direction in his native Venezuela.
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Associated Press

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Published: Monday, January 24, 2011 | 8:36 p.m.

Having become the first Venezuelan to earn a PGA Tour card, Jhonattan Vegas says it was a “dream come true” to win his first event soon after in capturing the Bob Hope Classic.

Vegas finished seventh in the 2010 Nationwide Tour to earn his PGA Tour playing rights. And he didn’t take long to collect his first victory, winning on the second playoff hole Sunday to become the first rookie to win the 52-year-old tournament at La Quinta, Calif.

The 26-year-old Vegas said in a telephone interview with Venezuelan TV station Globovision on Monday that he encountered “super complicated situations” on two critical holes, but “things came out quite well for me.”

“Having won this tournament in the PGA Tour is a dream come true,” Vegas said, adding he wants to “be able to share it with all of Venezuela.

“(I want to) learn from the best players to see if someday we become one of the best players, if not the best player in the world.”

His win inspired front-page headlines in local newspapers such as “Vegas king in California” and “Vegas made his dream come true.”

Vegas wants to give his sport a boost in Venezuela, where baseball has long been the undisputed favorite. Golf has also come under criticism from President Hugo Chavez, who has called it a pastime of the rich.

Chavez’s government has closed six courses in the past seven years, all but one of them on land owned by the state oil company. The leftist president has also threatened to expropriate some exclusive golf courses in Caracas to make more room for public housing for the poor.

“I hope that with this triumph we will change … little by little, so that golf becomes perhaps the most popular sport in Venezuela,” Vegas said.

Juan Nutt, president of the PGA of Venezuela, called the win “incredible” and praised Vegas for showing that hard work pays off.

“You’re an example for all Venezuelan young people, on and off the golf course,” Nutt said in a statement.