VENICE -- Victoria Tanco’s putt stopped just short of the cup, bringing an end to a day where her Texas wedge wasn’t cooperating.
The IMG Academies golfer, though, still managed to fire a 1-under par 71 in the opening round at the second stage of LPGA Tour Qualifying School at Venice’s Plantation Golf & Country Club on Tuesday.
The ability to score when the putter wasn’t working proved just how precise her ball-striking was on Plantation’s Bobcat Course.
“I hit so many greens and fairways that I didn’t have so many bogeys,” said Tanco, who began her first round off No. 10. “... It was like I was hitting every hole for birdie, so that was good.”
But the 17-year-old phenom wasn’t always strutting around on the links.
Rather, she had a different club in hand at first -- attempting to play field hockey in her native Argentina where the Argentine women’s national team has medaled in the last three Summer Olympic Games.
Tanco, who hails from Buenos Aires, grew up in a house on a golf course.
The gravitation to one of the world’s oldest sports seemed inevitable, even though neither of her parents played.
However, Tanco and her older brother tried their hand at the game when she was 6. By the age of 14, she won her first AJGA event and was fully immersed in the Bradenton sports academy that has spawned Paula Creamer, Peter Uihlein and several other top-notch golfers.
She was even featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Where Will They Be?” segment on 16 future stars in August 2010.
Tanco grabbed AJGA player of the year honors in 2008 and 2009, too.
She currently splits time between Argentina and Bradenton, and while that traveling would cause some players to lose consistency on the course, Tanco is accustomed to it to the point that it doesn’t hinder her scorching game.
“I’m used to it, and I like it, so there’s no problem,” she said.
Tanco is part of a youthful wave of Argentineans making their mark in golf as the South American impact becomes increasingly apparent on golf’s biggest stages.
For instance, there’s several standout Colombian players like Camilo Villegas, and Argentina boasts a two-time major champion in Angel Cabrera.
At IMG, Tanco and Emiliano Grillo are two players looking to burst into stardom now, rather than later.
Grillo won his professional debut in a recent West Florida Golf Tour event, and, buoyed by that success, he advanced through the first stage of European Tour Q-School after closing rounds of 65 and 63.
It’s that type of play that could shift some focus away from Argentina’s most popular sport (soccer) toward golf.
“If you see five years ago and now, there’s a lot more people playing (golf),” Tanco said. “They’re building more courses and there’s more practice facilities, but of course soccer is more popular. At least golf is growing, and a lot of people are starting to know what it is all about.”
Tanco earned her way into the second stage of LPGA Tour Q-School after a steady performance, where she totaled 284 (4-under par) for the 72-hole event.
Ruben Yorio, Cabrera’s caddie, toted the bag for Tanco in that event as well as her victory at the 111th Women’s Western Amateur.
“The golfers know her in Argentina,” said Yorio, who is caddying for her this week as Cabrera is recovering from injury and hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since the middle of August. “The golf family is small, so we know her. The parents found that I was off for a few weeks, so I came to help her for these couple weeks.”
So far, Tanco’s right on pace to get through another stage, even if it’s a 72-hole event featuring 240 players fighting for the top 70 spots for progression.
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 and email@example.com. Check out his blog, The Golf Coast, to find out how other local players are doing at LPGA Tour Q-School this week.