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Gators seniors Tyler McCumber, left, and T.J. Vogel provide Florida with one of the nation's top tandems. (Wilcox/GolfWeek)

Friday February 8, 2013Double Trouble: Gators' Tandem of McCumber and Vogel Aim for Strong Finish

Gators seniors Tyler McCumber, left, and T.J. Vogel provide Florida with one of the nation's top tandems. (Wilcox/GolfWeek)

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As they make their way around Mark Bostick Golf Course this weekend, their primary concern is to help the Gators win the SunTrust Gator Invitational.

But Florida seniors T.J. Vogel and Tyler McCumber won't only be looking at the team scores. You can be sure they will peek at the individual leaderboard as well, specifically where they stand in relation to one another.

That's the way it has been for these two for several years. While Vogel and McCumber are teammates and one of the nation's top collegiate tandems -- both were recently one of 27 golfers named to the Ben Hogan Award watch list -- they also have a healthy personal rivalry.

A rivalry that started several summers ago when they met at an American Junior Golf Association event in North Carolina. They hit it off, as did their golf-pro dads -- former PGA Tour golfer Mark McCumber and Joe Vogel, a PGA teaching pro and the head coach of the Florida International University women's golf team.

"I think we are very similar," Vogel said. "We are on the same talent level and I think that pushes us. Obviously we have a little competitive edge against each other, but it doesn't get out of control.

"We'll be the first one to congratulate the other. Some people who are real competitive with their friends ... can't put that aside."

McCumber agrees. If he beats Vogel at a tournament, he knows he was on top of his game. If not, they can still go out for dinner and have a good time.

"It's a fun tandem,'' McCumber said. "We are obviously super competitive but we've always been able to be friends."

Their friendship was reignited last year when Vogel, after playing his freshman and sophomore seasons at Southern California, transferred to UF.

Vogel wanted to be closer to his home in Cooper City. He also wanted to get closer to the game once again. While at Southern Cal Vogel's focus drifted and while he had some success, he knew there was untapped potential.

The decision to transfer to Florida was easy. McCumber's presence made it a no-brainer.

"It was a huge factor, just right off the bat able to be comfortable,'' Vogel said. "It was really hard leaving, but knowing I had my best friend here, it made it easier. It's been great to reconnect."

Both players are closing out their collegiate careers in strong fashion.

Vogel is averaging a team-best 72.3 scoring average and shot a season-low round of 68 in the fall. Meanwhile, McCumber's low round is also a 68, and his scoring average (72.7) is just a tap-in behind Vogel's.

After meeting when they were in high school -- McCumber grew up in Ponte Vedra -- they formed a bond at junior and amateur events despite McCumber's roots planted in north Florida and Vogel's in the Miami area.

"We'd always room together at tournaments and stuff," McCumber said.

They recognized early on that both had similar goals and similar approaches to the game.

Away from the course, not so much.

"We like different styles of music, different styles of clothes, different hobbies,'' Vogel said. "We are completely different, which is unique. It's funny how well we get along being how different we are."

Those differences fade away once they step into the tee box. Both are excellent ball strikers and good around the greens. They have a good touch with the putter.

They also share the same goal. After their college eligibility is up this spring, both plan to turn pro with visions of being on the PGA Tour.

The visions don't stop there.

"We both want to be on a Ryder Cup together,'' Vogel said. "That's a long way away, but it's in the plans."

That might sound a little dreamy for a pair of guys in their early 20s, but based on what they've done and their tunnel vision to get there, don't be surprised if it happens.

Vogel made headlines in July when he won the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. As a reward -- besides the big silver trophy he held up in photos -- is a spot in this year's Masters.

In some ways, the victory validated Vogel's decision to change schools in the middle of his college career.

"I've been working much harder since I've been here. That has brought a lot of confidence back,'' he said. "I've been really pushing myself. I've always had the raw natural talent to go out and play well, but the practice habits, working my butt off, has really brought consistency.

"I can't even begin to explain how different it is playing golf here and being closer to home and working with [Gators head coach] Buddy [Alexander] and [assistant] John [Handrigan]. They are both phenomenal at what they do."

McCumber won't be playing in Augusta National later this spring, but he'll be at Amen Corner and Rae's Creek with Vogel. After all, this is a friendly rivalry.

"I'd say he's got the leg up on me right now,'' McCumber said. "But I'm not mad at that because I get to go watch."

McCumber's game is on par for future success, too. As a junior McCumber posted four top-five finishes, including a tie for runner-up at the NCAA Championships.

As much as Vogel's game has improved by coming to Florida, McCumber has also benefited from the renewed rivalry. During Vogel's two years at USC, they didn't talk as often and only saw each other sporadically at tournaments.

Now, they practice together, hang out away from golf, and provide each other constant reminders of their ultimate goals.

"We definitely work off each other every day,'' McCumber said. "We know a lot about the game and a lot about our own games. I think we're both mentally strong. We have both pushed each other to get better at that."

While the future beckons, McCumber and Vogel want to finish what McCumber called a "fun ride" with a memorable finish to their UF careers. A national title would be nice. Maybe one of them can win the individual NCAA championship.

The next few months are for working toward those goals, starting this weekend at the Gator Invitational.

Florida's terrific tandem plans to lead the way.

"We are definitely the clear-cut leaders of the team,'' Vogel said. "We have proven that over the last two years. I think it's really cool to be recognized as one of the top collegiate golfers.

"It's pretty cool that the University of Florida has two of them. It gives us a lot of confidence where our games are at."

 

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