CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas lives in Texas and has played on the PGA Tour since 2011, but as a Venezuelan national, he is required to have a visa to visit the United Kingdom.
It’s not that he was unaware of this fact. He read the dates wrong on the visa – in the U.K., dates typically are written in the order of date, month and year compared with the U.S., which lists them as month, date and year. Vegas didn’t realize that his visa had expired until last Thursday, when he was in New York and preparing to fly to Scotland.
“It almost seemed like it was a horror movie happening for the past week,” Vegas said after shooting 5-over 76 in Thursday’s first round (scores). “Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose, I think you couldn't really do it.”
© GOLFFILE/EOIN CLARKE
After taking extraordinary measures to make his tee time, Jhonattan Vegas struggles in the 1st round of the British Open.
When Vegas learned of the expiration, he found that it would take only 24 hours to get the visa. But after filing for the visa on Friday, he was not told until Monday that he had filed for the wrong type of visa. On Monday, he made the correct application, left New York and flew home to Houston, expecting the document to arrive on Tuesday so that he could be in Scotland the next day.
For some reason, the shipping company that was used to overnight the visa to Vegas closed its facility and the visa was delayed until Wednesday.
“I got the reply, but that day something happened with UPS in New York that the whole UPS shut down,” Vegas said. “So, the visa never left New York until late that day. I mean, I literally waited in a car in front of the consulate in Houston for seven hours, hoping for that visa to show up that day. It never did.”
Finally, on Wednesday morning, with visa in hand, Vegas boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto to Glasgow. A helicopter was waiting to whisk Vegas and his clubs to Carnoustie.
But, as luck would have it, Vegas’ clubs were stuck in Toronto.
“The only bag that didn't show up was my golf clubs,” Vegas said. “I called my caddie, ‘Man, scramble some clubs, whatever you can find. Go ask.’ Luckily, the [equipment] vans are still here, because if it was the PGA Tour, it would have been gone, and I probably would have played with some member’s clubs here today.”
Vegas took his collection of begged clubs to the range, where he hit about 20 balls.
“Luckily, they were going forward, which was nice,” Vegas said with a laugh.
Through eight holes, Vegas was only 1 over, never having seen the golf course. Everything changed as Vegas grew impatient, pulled out the driver and bad things happened over the final 10 holes as he made four bogeys.
“As long as I had a shot at making it, I was going to go for it,” said Vegas, explaining his participation with no practice and borrowed gear. “I'm sure, if you tell anyone in the world, Hey, you're going to have a chance to play the Open Championship, even if you show up two hours before the time, everyone in the world would take it.”
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli