Olympics Q&A: Jhonattan Vegas
Vegas looks to represent Venezuela well on the world stage.
July 26, 2016
By Mike McAllister , PGATOUR.COM
- Jhonattan Vegas looks forward to returning to Rio to play in the 2016 Olympic Games. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
July has been one terrific month for Jhonattan Vegas. At the Barbasol Championship in Alabama, he shot a course-record 60 that included an ace and finished tied for fourth. Then last week at the RBC Canadian Open, he rallied from five strokes behind on Sunday to shoot a final-round 64 to win his second PGA TOUR event – and his first in five years. The win also gained him a spot in this season’s final major, the PGA Championship, and moved him inside the top 30 in FedExCup points. August could even be more important for Vegas. He will represent his native Venezuela in the Olympic men’s golf tournament in Rio de Janeiro, the lone golfer from his country in the 60-player field. It’s a chance for Vegas – who moved from 203 to 86 in the latest world rankings – to continue growing the game in his country with his visibility on the Olympic stage.
Given his current red-hot form, it’s also a chance for Vegas to deliver a rare Olympic medal to Venezuela. The country has won just 12 total Olympic medals, including two golds – boxer Francisco Rodriguez at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and fencer Ruben Limardo in 2012 in London. In the first Olympics held in South America, Vegas should feel quite comfortable and should be a popular figure with Venezuela being a border country with Brazil.
Vegas sat down with PGATOUR.COM to discuss the Olympics and his upcoming participation.
What it means to be in the Olympics. “Just to be part of the Olympics itself is something that, as a golfer, you never dreamed of. It puts golf in a different perspective. Instead of playing for yourself, you’ve got the whole country behind you. It’s been a fun experience thinking about being there with all the other Olympic athletes. It’s more than just being a golfer playing another event. It’s being part of the Olympics, the biggest sporting event in the world. Should be a fun week.”
What he’s hoping to experience. “In the end, it will probably be another golf tournament for us. Just like any other athlete, it’s another competition, although obviously a bigger stage. But just being there, representing your country, having that flag on your shoulders – that’s what I’m looking forward to the most. And I definitely want to watch some of the other sports, some of the swim meets and track meets.”
Dreaming of winning a medal. “Ooh, it would be something unique. Just to give your country that joy. Here (at a PGA TOUR event), if you finish second or third, it’s a great week for yourself. But to give that joy to your country, give your country a medal …. in my case, Venezuela doesn’t have a ton of medals, so to have a chance to give them one would be awesome.”
The impact of his participation. “In general, it’s going to take golf to a different platform, reach levels that haven’t been reached before. The game is going to be exposed to more people around the world. It’s going to be great for the game. In Venezuela itself, it’s going to be super-important. People are going to know that I’m part of the Olympics. They’ll start researching more about golf. People who otherwise might not thought they could get to the Olympics will now know they can through golf. Golf is not a big sport in Venezuela, so having an Olympian from that country will be pretty nice.”
His TOUR success thus far has had an impact. “I’ve been told by a lot of people that the game has grown, for sure. Kids dream about being a PGA TOUR pro instead of maybe just hoping they could be one. They know there’s a way to get there. That’s important. Hearing some of those dreams from those kids is pretty satisfying.”
The importance of continuing to succeed. “Being the first guy from my country to be on TOUR, obviously every time you do well, it’s bigger down there (in Venezuela) than it is here. That’s nice because you always want to get the game to grow. It’s a little big extra motivation to perform better, move the game to a different level. You want to build a legacy and create something for the next generation to live up to.”