Viva Jhonny Vegas

Jhonny Vegas appears to be cementing his status in the golf world. (QMI Agency/Jesse Winter)

Jhonny Vegas appears to be cementing his status in the golf world. (QMI Agency/Jesse Winter)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

BANFF, Alta. — Vegas was money.

Taking home $140,000 and the 2011 Telus World Skins Game title might boost golfer Jhonattan Vegas’ popularity back in Venezuela, but he’s got a long way to go if he wants to reach baseball legend Andres Galarraga’s status in his homeland.

During Tuesday’s broadcast from the Fairmont Banff Skins game, a TSN announcer suggested Vegas is as big back home as baseballers such as The Big Cat Galarraga and Omar Vizquel.

Not so, says Vegas.

“I wish I would be as famous as them,” said the 26-year-old, who claimed seven skins over two days in Banff. “Baseball is as big a sport there. It’s like football in the U.S. or soccer around the world.

“It would be real tough to be as famous as them. But I’ve gotten to know them — super good guys.

“I really wish I could be as good as them.”

The young up-and-comer appears to be cementing his status in the golf world. He’s a contender for the PGA rookie-of-the-year honours after winning the Bob Hope Classic in just his second event of the year.

Although he only narrowly edged Greenville, S.C., native Lucas Glover by $15,000 in the Banff Skins Game, Venezuelan Vegas could have dominated the made-for-TV charity event.

On the par-4, 442-yard 12th hole of Banff Springs, Vegas lipped out a putt worth three skins and $60,000 in dramatic fashion, watching it curl all the way around the cup before flipping his putter in the air while looking skyward.

Later, on the par-4, 385-yard No. 16, a rare miss on a short putt after a 370-yard drive cost him another $75,000. He stood frozen for a full 10 seconds after his ball rolled wide.

But he needed just one big haul on Day 2 of the event to lock up first prize — claiming $85,000 for his birdie on par-3, 180-yard No. 13 after Paul Casey lipped out a putt that would have halved the hole and pushed the winnings forward.

“It’s always good winning,” Vegas said afterward as he sat in the champion’s chair in the middle of the media tent with Casey, Glover, Stephen Ames and Anthony Kim flanking him.

“Even if you beat your mom and dad, it’s always good winning.”

It wasn’t his parents he beat. His competitors were no slouches.

Glover earned five skins and $125,000 with an amazing eagle putt from about 30 feet out on the final hole of the afternoon.

Host Ames was shut out on the second day but came away with three skins and $45,000 to sit in third place. Kim’s pair of skins from Day 1 gave him $30,000, while Casey’s single score on the opening day left him with $20,000.

If not for a tough day on the greens, Kim might have been in Vegas’ shoes after Tuesday’s round.

“This guy that just walked on stage and made it when it counted,” Kim said as Vegas walked into the post-round presser late after posing for photos and inking autographs. “In the Skins Game, it’s not how well you play that day. It’s just about who makes a putt at the right time.

“Jhonny played great,” Kim continued. “He had a couple lip-outs and made a couple more putts when it counted.”

Vegas just didn’t make any throws the way Casey did on Day 1, chucking his golf ball more than 120 yards over water and onto the green.

“He didn’t want to embarrass me,” Casey said with a grin.

“Exactly,” joked Vegas before quickly retracting that statement. “I really haven’t thrown a ball in a long time.

“I probably would have got intense into it, and bad things can happen.”

As for golf, it looks like good things ahead for all.


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