Angel Cabrera's triumph in last year's U.S. Open made him the toast of golf in his native Argentina.
If the swing doctors on staff at the IMG David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., know what they're talking about, Cabrera may soon have to share the big stage back in his homeland.
Victoria Tanco is only 14 years old, but she's coming in a hurry. The next stop on her fast trip to the top is this week's 25th Scott Robertson Memorial at Roanoke Country Club.
"They are raving about [Tanco]," said Bobby Penn, the director of the SRM girls' field. "They say she's the most talented girl they've had down there at that age.
"And you've got to remember that Paula Creamer was there, so that's pretty high praise."
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No doubt. Creamer, 21, who won the Robertson in 2002 and '03, captured her first LPGA Tour event in 2005, four days before she graduated from high school. She has won five times since, including twice this season, and has banked nearly $4 million in 3 [sup]1/ [sub]2 years on tour to firmly entrench herself as the top-ranked American in the women's game.
Shane Reiser, Tanco's primary teacher at the Leadbetter Academy, has seen plenty enough already to think the slim girl with the long ponytail from Buenos Aires has a shot to rival Creamer's junior resume, which included 11 AJGA titles and almost every major individual honor.
"Oh, Victoria is as good as anybody that we've ever seen through the academy," Reiser said. "That's a strong statement, for sure.
"She's just got a strong passion for the game, a work ethic for the game, and she just competes. The kid reminds me a lot of Paula Creamer in the way that she competes when she's playing in a tournament atmosphere. Her work ethic and passion are as good or better as anybody we've ever had through here."
Tanco has owned the junior girls' younger divisions since 2005. Last year, she scored a wire-to-wire win in the Calloway Junior World Championships in San Diego. She also captured her third straight Doral Publix Junior title last year, shooting 69-67 to win the 12-13 crown by 11 shots over an international field.
This past December, she tied for third in the 15-18 age division at the Junior Orange Bowl Classic in Coral Gables, Fla., finishing two shots back in a stout field that included Blacksburg's Courtney Ellenbogen, who was ninth, 10 strokes back.
While he's not going to predict a Tanco triumph in the Robertson's 15-18 division, Reiser sounds like a guy who wouldn't mind drawing her name in a tournament office pool. For amusement only, of course.
"She'll come out and she'll compete, she'll compete to win the Scott Robertson, there's no doubt about it," he said. "She won't be intimidated from any kids who she has never seen before. I never can say, 'hey, this girl is definitely going to win this tournament,' but I'd be surprised if she wasn't in there at the end to have a chance to win."
When asked what has made his prized pupil from South America so good so fast, Reiser said: "She's a terrific ball-striker. She makes putts when she has to, she has a good short game, she hits it long and she hits it solid. And she competes ... she just gets the ball in the hole no matter what.
"She's just a really good player, a very well-rounded player. At such a young age, it's pretty amazing."
Since picking up her first club at age 6, Tanco has had a love affair with golf. She used to play field hockey, but soon gave up that sport to devote all her spare time to golf. She said she routinely works on her game eight hours a day.
"I love golf because you can be better every day ... you never have, like, a stop, you have a lot of different courses, so it's not always the same," said Tanco, speaking via cellphone from the practice tee -- where else? -- Wednesday.
Tanco lives with her family in Buenos Aires, where she has a pair of coaches. She makes the long trip to the U.S. with her mother so she can spend two- to three-week intervals at the academy to prepare for tournaments.
"She came down last December and shot a 62 on a par-71 course," said Reiser, his voice raising in excitement. "She was 9-under in her last 11 holes. And not too many kids can shoot that type of number. She has no fear of taking it as low as she possibly can."
Tanco, who made great strides in learning the English language in all her trips to the U.S. the past two years, much prefers to let her clubs do most of her talking.
"Victoria is extremely shy in social aspects," Reiser noted. "But on the course is a different story. That's when she turns it on and kind of lets herself go."
Tanco she said she plans on going and going until she reaches the top of the mountain.
"I want to play on the LPGA and be the No. 1," said Tanco, speaking in very clear English.
The sooner the better, too.
"I want to go to the LPGA instead of college," she said.
Argentina, which has more golf courses than any South American country, will be keeping a close eye on its young, but fast-rising starlet.
"It is a 'thing' there," said Reiser, when asked if Tanco has already become somewhat of a celebrity back home.
"Victoria is being regarded as kind of a hopeful for the girls there to play golf. And especially with Angel Cabrera winning the U.S. Open, golf is becoming more of a popular sport there. She's getting a lot of comparisons to [ex-tennis star] Gabriela Sabatini because she's kind of a prodigy coming out of Argentina.
"And know what? That's how I would describe Victoria. She's definitely a special player."