Cherry Hills Village, Colo. – Sebastian Vazquez, the two-time reigning Mexican Amateur champion, lists the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship as his top golf experience.
Of course, that was until this week.
Vazquez, 22, of Mexico City, didn’t advance to match play in his U.S. Amateur debut last year at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. He corrected that Tuesday at Cherry Hills Country Club with a 1-under-par 70. Combined with his opening 5-under 65 on Monday at nearby CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora, Vazquez submitted a 6-under 135, the fourth-lowest score of the two-day stroke-play qualifying portion of the championship.
“I am playing very solid. I’m very comfortable,” said the soft-spoken Vazquez, one of the few competitors wearing slacks on a warm day near Denver. “I am hitting the ball exactly how I want to. I was working hard to make the match play. I didn’t want to miss it again.”
Last year, Vazquez shot 70-75 to miss being one of the top 64 scorers to advance to match play. But he was limited by a game that wasn’t as versatile as it is now.
“It was a great time. That course really was a tough one for me, though,” Vazquez said of Erin Hills. “My natural shot is a draw, and that’s all I could play last year. This year I can hit a fade, draw, whatever I need to do. It’s fun to play that way.
“I thought this course (Cherry Hills) was every bit as hard as Erin Hills. This one has lots of deep rough, tough greens to read. So I know I’m playing well.”
Though his father is the person who has most influenced him in golf, Vazquez credits his swing instructor, Santiago Casada, the Mexican national coach, with helping him refine his game to accommodate a greater variety of shots.
How solid has his game been thus far?
On Monday at the companion qualifying course at CommonGround, Vazquez hit all 18 greens in regulation. On Tuesday, he hit 15 more in a round that included four birdies against three bogeys. He lipped out for eagle after reaching the par-511th hole in two shots. One of his bogeys was the result of a three-putt at the par-5 17th.
Vazquez, who began playing golf at age 7, lists Jason Day, Adam Scott and Tiger Woods as his favorite golfers. He lacks match-play experience in big events, though he plays the format frequently at home, he said. He won both of his Mexico Amateur titles at stroke play. The reigning Mexican Amateur champion earns an exemption into the U.S. Amateur.
Vazquez arrived at the U.S. Amateur after a full summer schedule in the U.S. that includes top-10 finishes in a number of events, including third at the Sunnehanna Amateur (after going into the final round tied for the lead), and sixth in the Terra Cotta Invitational. He is coming off a17th-place finish in the Porter Cup last week.
“It’s been very busy for me, but a lot of fun because I’m playing really well,” Vazquez said. “There is not too much I can do differently, maybe make a few more putts.”
He was excited to reach the match-play portion of the competition.
“Now it is totally different,” he said. “I like match play. It’s something I am looking forward to and see how far I can go.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.