Midway • For all those golfers out there who have wondered what it feels like when everything is clicking perfectly on the golf course, University of Florida rising senior T.J. Vogel has the answer.
"Like nothing else in the world," Vogel said.
He should know. The 22-year-old collegian from Cooper City, Fla., played almost flawlessly Saturday in the final match of the first United States Golf Association event held in Utah, the 87th U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Soldier Hollow Golf Club.
Vogel played so well, making 10 birdies and no bogeys in 26 holes, that his opponent, fellow Floridian Kevin Aylwin, simply didn't have a chance.
Vogel won 12 and 10, closing out a spectacular week of play with a birdie on the championship match's 26th hole the par-5 eighth hole on Soldier Hollow's Gold course to earn a gold medal, get his name on the large silver traveling trophy and, most importantly, earn a likely invitation to the 2013 Masters.
"It's just too surreal right now to think I will be playing in the Masters," Vogel said.
It was the largest winning margin in a final APL match since 1985, when the result was a 12-and-11 win for Jim Sorensen in Lihue, Hawaii. The largest winning margin in any USGA match is 14 and 13, and Vogel said that became his goal when he was asked afterward if he felt sorry for Aylwin, who was right around even-par most of the day, after a bad start.
"Someone said the record was 13 and 12, or something like that. So I wanted to go get it. I wanted to go get that record. I didn't, but that's fine. I still played well," Vogel said.
And yes, he was feeling some sympathy for his opponent, especially early in the match and then around lunchtime, when he had a 10-hole lead.
"Ten up, that's kind of a lot," he said.
Said Aylwin, who just completed his eligibility at the University of North Florida: "It seemed like he was birdieing everything. â¦ I just didn't play very well today, and he played great. Today was pretty rough."
Normally nervous before a round or a match, Vogel said he was "confident" and "comfortable" early Saturday morning, so much so that he was able to eat a good breakfast for the first time all week. He never lost a hole, and took control by making birdies on six of seven holes on the back nine during the morning 18.
Of the last few holes of the match, Vogel said, "I was tired and it is the end of the week and I wanted to get it done, and I turned it on."
William Gist IV, a member of the USGA's executive committee, consoled Aylwin in the trophy presentation by noting that "you can't play defense in golf" and called Vogel's play one of the best exhibitions of golf on a final day of a tournament that he has ever seen.
"I don't know if I had come with all guns ablazing if I would have had enough to beat him anyways," Aylwin said.
Vogel routinely drove the ball 30 to 50 yards farther than Aylwin did Saturday, and his irons were so good all week that he said he had more tap-in birdies in this tournament than his best three previous tournaments combined.
"It was just a day where everything was clicking at the same time," Vogel said. "â¦ Every time I stepped over the ball, I felt like I knew where it was going that's a great feeling."
Seeded second for match play after shooting 71-65136 in stroke play, Vogel went to the 18th hole three times in four matches before beating 2011 runner-up Derek Ernst 4 and 3 in Friday afternoon's semifinal.
"I had to play well," he said. "If I was a little off, I could have been going home early."
U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship
R University of Florida golfer T.J. Vogel downs Kevin Aylwin 12 and 10 to win the 2012 title in the first USGA event ever held in Utah.
• It is the largest winning margin in a U.S. APL final match since Jim Sorensen defeated Jay Cooper 12 and 11 in Hawaii in 1985.