A Long and Winding Road
Deerfield’s Vince India has visited a number of remote outposts in pursuit of his goal of playing on the PGA Tour
By Ed Sherman
This article appeared in the April 2017 issue of Chicago District Golfer.
It is a Tuesday afternoon in mid-February, and Vince India is talking via FaceTime from his hotel room in Bogota, Colombia.
“It’s nice over here, other than the lack of oxygen,” said India of the city that sits at 8,500 feet above sea level.
On this day, Bogota simply was the latest outpost on India’s great golf journey as he geared up for the Club Colombia Championship on the Web.com Tour.
It was just another stop that has seen India compete at remote venues in South and Central America, and courses of varying quality in the U.S. The native of Deerfield drags his clubs, not to mention his hopes, far and wide in pursuit of his ultimate destination: the PGA Tour.
“That’s the goal,” India said.
India, 27, believes 2017 could be the stepping stone he’s been seeking. A stellar final round of 66 landed him a third-place finish in the Web.com Tour Q-School tournament in December, granting him status this season on the circuit that is one step below the PGA Tour.
“I’m making progress,” India said. “Q-School was the culmination of a lot of hard work and, for once, everything coming together.”
Indeed, it never has come easy for India, who always has been somewhat of a late bloomer. India didn’t enjoy success until late in his high school years at Deerfield. As a result, he did not receive scholarship offers to play at his two top college choices: Illinois and Michigan State. Instead, India was a second-semester enrollee at Iowa.
Again, India developed slowly. But sure enough, it all came together in 2011 when he was named Big Ten Player of the Year.
“I’ve always had a long-term plan,” India said. “I’m finally hitting puberty at 27. I’m a lot stronger. It allows me to swing the club more efficiently and consistently.”
Coming out of college, India knew his swing wasn’t fundamentally sound enough to hold up under the pressure of professional golf. He has made strides working with Jeff Mory, the former Northwestern coach who now is the director of golf at Conway Farms.
“Vince’s greatest asset is that he sees this as a process,” Mory said. “He has gone from a good golfer to a great golfer. Every year, he is making positive steps, getting better. He keeps working on his strength and seeks to improve his weaknesses.
India has paid his dues taking the back roads of golf. He has spent considerable time playing on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. Let’s just say the travel can be more than a tad challenging. He recalls playing a tournament in Nicaragua where he had to drive more than two hours on mostly unpaved roads in the middle of a jungle before finally arriving at the course.
India learned lessons in how to manage the unexpected and encountering places “where there’s no real sense of order.”
“I figured out how to handle stress and terrible situations,” India said. “Whenever I hear someone complain, ‘I can’t believe my rental car isn’t here,’ I go, ‘You’ve never flown from Chile to Guatemala on a prop plane. I don’t want to hear any of your grief.’”
India’s travels also took him back home — literally. After living in Sarasota, Fla. for a couple of years, he decided to move back in with his parents in Deerfield. He wanted to be closer to Mory, and since he was on the road 30 weeks out of the year, he figured he could save on living expenses.
“If you had told me when I graduated Iowa that I would move back in with my parents at 25, I probably would slap you in the face,” India said. “But it worked out well. It’s part of the process.”
India saw true progress in 2016. He qualified for his first PGA Tour event at the Valspar Championship in March. He was in contention for the first 20 holes before making the fatal mistake of “thinking about the outcome.” It led to a second-round 78, causing him to miss the cut.
However, India came away from the tournament with the realization that if he played good golf, he could compete on the PGA Tour. Then he experienced another affirmation of his abilities with the strong showing at Web.com Tour Q-School.
“I did a good job of staying patient, making good decisions and not trying to do too much,” India said.
India suffered some back issues shortly after Q-School. It led to him getting off to a slow start in 2017. In Bogota, he was one shot from making the cut; it was his third straight missed cut in 2017. He did break into the money the following week, finishing tied for 52nd at the Panama Claro Championship.
India, though, vowed he wasn’t going to feel any additional pressure if he had some early-season struggles. It is a long year and it takes just a few good tournaments to turn things around.
If India has a role model, he points to Zach Johnson. It didn’t come easy for him, either. After turning pro in 1998, the former Drake standout didn’t play his first full season on the PGA Tour until 2004, at age 28. Everyone knows the rest of Johnson’s story.
“With the meteoric rise of some of these young players, you feel like you are missing out if you are not one of those guys,” Mory said. “But there are far more players who take the other (longer) road. That’s where Vince sees himself. He’s very optimistic. He’s not going to get beaten down by the process.”
India contends he has time on his side in trying to reach the PGA Tour. Besides, he says, he has nowhere else to go.
“I really don’t see myself doing anything else,” India said. “There’s not a lot of things I’m good at. I’m good at playing golf. It will be something I do for the rest of my life.”