Texas senior Travis Vick ready for start of PGA Tour fortnight in Mayakoba

Texas senior Travis Vick ready for start of PGA Tour fortnight in Mayakoba
Texas senior Travis Vick ready for start of PGA Tour fortnight in Mayakoba

Write one, get one free.

Houston native, University of Texas senior Travis Vick had long dreamed of competing in his hometown PGA Tour event, and this year the letter worked, as Vick was chosen to compete in the Next week’s Cadence Bank Houston Open with a sponsor exemption. The event at Memorial Park was to mark Vick’s first non-major start – he was a weak amateur at the US Open last summer – but that was until Vick received further good news about a week and a half.

World Wide Technology is sponsoring this week’s Mayakoba leg of the tour and the Golf Channel’s East Lake Cup, a college tournament taking place in late October that Texas participated in last week. So why not invite one of the best college players from the East Lake field to play with the pros? Last year, Oklahoma State’s Eugenio Chacarra received the honor; this time it was Vick, who currently sits No. 10 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

When Texas Head Coach John Fields relayed a message from Tournament Director Joe Mazzeo asking if Vick would be interested in playing, Vick didn’t hesitate: “Yes, absolutely, I can take the time to go to Mayakoba.”

A fortnight tour: Mayakoba one week, Houston the next.

How big is that experience for a budding pro? It’s basically a 14-day trial subscription with nothing but perks. (You do, however, need a credit card.)

“Being able to play back-to-back tournaments is really cool because it gives you a sense of what life on Tour is like for two weeks in a row,” Vick said. “What people may not understand is how grueling it is, the travel involved, the expense… the grinding; everyone here is in full grind mode.

Including Vick, who hasn’t stopped since arriving in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on Sunday. He played six holes that afternoon at El Camaleon Golf Club, then a full 18 on Monday. On Tuesday, he played a pro-am on a different course before heading back to the host site for a dusk comeback.

The 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. shifts of the past two days have given Vick little time to think about the big task at hand: trying to defeat Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, two-time defending champion Viktor Hovland and over a hundred other card-carrying Tour members.

But even when he watches the driving range, Vick isn’t intimidated. He knows a few of the guys well, especially Scheffler, a Longhorn alum and Vick’s mentor. And his T-43 finish, the best among amateurs, last June at Brookline boosted his confidence.

“The US Open took the wow factor away,” Vick said.

Vick sticks to the saying, “Good golf is good golf, no matter who plays it.” While the conditioning, hospitality and strength of the terrain of a Tour event are unmatched, Vick’s experience at the collegiate level is nothing to sneeze at. One could easily argue that some of the Texas play layouts – Seminole, Pasatiempo, Prairie Dunes, Olympia Fields – are set up harder than El Camaleon will be.

It’s just that these pros are different from college kids. “Night and day,” says Vick. “They don’t make mistakes.”

PGA Tour ranking: Scheffler in the lead

Vick’s amateur resume is plentiful – an American amateur semi-finalist last year; Western amateur semi-finalist this year; won the decisive point for the NCAA title from Texas last season; former No. 1 junior in the nation before college. But if there’s anything that gnaws at him, it’s that he hasn’t won much — or, when it comes to college golf, not at all.

“I’m a big believer that you have to dominate every step of the way,” Vick said. “If you dominate college golf, then you’re ready for the pro level. … My goal is to win something.

We still have time. Vick admittedly hasn’t had the best of the fall seasons, with only a top 10 and a few showings outside the top 30. Although if this spring feels like the last, when Vick was a regionals finalist among five other top – 11 finishes, a turnaround could be brewing.

“Hopefully these two weeks will be a spark,” Vick said.

For those who haven’t seen Vick hit a golf shot, he’s a two-way player like he was on the high school football field. He’s an elite driver and he does well too. Around the greens, however, he has some catching up to do.

“That was the biggest improvement,” Vick said of his short game. “Now, that being said, when you start at the bottom where my short game was, you only have one way to go and that’s up.”

As Vick tells it, his bunker game was so bad his freshman year of college that he would happily find the green from a greenside trap. And last season, he doubled three chips at three different college tournaments in tight lies and Bermuda sense.

“Atrocious,” calls Vick. “I now have it at a somewhat acceptable level, not Tour ready, but average.”

Full scores from the World Tech Championship in Mayakoba

At a layout in El Camaleon where Hovland, the Tour’s self-proclaimed worst chipper, has won twice, Vick isn’t too concerned about the demands of the green surroundings this week. Rather, he knows that this design by Greg Norman demands precision from the start, more than any other stage on the Tour.

“And I wasn’t clear this fall,” admits Vick.

Hovland only hit two drivers in the last round at Mayakoba last fall, so Vick thinks he’ll use a lot of 3-woods and irons to find the short grass and not the mangroves. If this solves Vick’s recent scatter issues, it will be a good compromise to keep what is usually his best weapon in the bag.

And that could be the difference between Vick having a few extra days to kill before Houston Open week.

“If I’m in the fairway, I’m going to play well,” predicted Vick. “But if I’m in the mangroves and I ask my dad to go to my locker and get more golf balls, then it’s probably going to be an early week.”

. Travis Vick senior Texas ready for start fortnight PGA Tour Mayakoba

. Texas senior Travis Vick ready start PGA Tour fortnight Mayakoba

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