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Friday April 5, 2013 T.J. and Tiger Meet at Augusta -- Gators golfer T.J. Vogel's Masters Experience off to Great Start

Updated: 9:40am, April 5

T.J. Vogel

Florida's T.J. Vogel is an amateur but he will be sharing golf's grandest stage next week in Augusta.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators senior T.J. Vogel has tried to prepare the best he can for an event “that’s different than anything that I have ever experienced.”

Vogel left Friday for Augusta National, where he is playing in the Masters next week as an amateur. He qualified for golf’s most famous tournament by winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in July.

The 22-year-old Vogel has already experienced a thrill of a lifetime from his Masters experience. He was at Augusta National on Sunday to play a practice round.

As they discussed their plan on Saturday night, Vogel’s caddy told him that he had an 8 a.m. tee time. He also mentioned that Tiger Woods was in town for a practice round and was scheduled to tee off at 10 a.m.

The wheels immediately started spinning in Vogel’s head. When it comes to Vogel’s golf idol, there is only one player on the leaderboard.

“Tiger Woods, without a doubt,'' Vogel said.

When Vogel was 11, he attended the Masters for the first time and saw Tiger win in 2001. When he was 15 Vogel and his father returned to Augusta as fans and watched Tiger win again in 2005. That is the last time Woods, who recently returned to No. 1 in the world rankings and is on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, won in Augusta.

SI cover -- Tiger Woods

So Vogel has watched Tiger win half of his four Masters titles in person.

The chance to possibly meet Woods was too good an opportunity to pass up for Vogel, who devised a perfect plan with his tee time scheduled two hours in front of Woods. That meant he would be finishing the front nine about the time Woods was starting.

“We tried to time it perfectly as I was walking up No. 9 he was walking up No. 1,’’ Vogel said.

Vogel aced the plan.

“I basically just walked down No. 1 and then just ran into him and we talked for a few minutes,’’ he said Thursday. “It was really cool to finally meet him. It’s been kind of a dream to be able to talk with him. I’m hoping that we will be able to play some time before the tournament. I want to learn from him. He’s the best that’s ever been in my opinion and plays that course really well. I’m just going to try and learn as much as I can from him.”

Vogel said he was nervous at first but that Woods was friendly and approachable. Vogel broke the ice by telling the 37-year-old Woods that they share the same birthday: Dec. 30.

“He’s kind of a funny and sarcastic dude,’’ Vogel said. “I was just like, ‘I want to introduce myself. I’m one of the amateurs playing in the tournament.’ He was real sincere, ‘Congratulations. That’s such an amazing accomplishment.’ And then I was like, ‘You know, we have the same birthday. It’s kind of destiny that we are meeting here at Augusta National.’ We started naming all the famous people like LeBron James, all the different people that share our birthday.

“It was really cool. I didn’t really ask him anything about golf. I just wanted to introduce myself and meet him. Hopefully when I play with him for a tournament, that’s when we will talk about golf.”

Editor’s note: For more on Vogel’s trip to Augusta to play in the Masters, check back with early next week for a feature story on what he hopes to gain from the experience.

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