Four months later, Vince India finally exorcised whatever demons might have been lingering from one of golf’s most heartbreaking stories of 2019.
On the 16-hour drive from central Florida back to his home in Chicago, he could breathe easy and know a good night’s sleep was ahead.
It’s been a long few months for the 30-year old.
In August, India was playing in the second-to-last group and tied for second in the final round of the WinCo Foods Portland Open when he got to the par-5 18th at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course in Oregon. If he won, he would be headed to the PGA Tour for the first time. A par on the last would get him through to the three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals, where the top 75 on the points list get yet another opportunity to earn a card.
Trailing leader Bo Hoag by a stroke and figuring he needed to make eagle to have any shot at winning, India instead double-bogeyed the hole after his shot from a greenside bunker trickled past the flag, rolled off the green and settled in a drain, and his next shot rolled back into the same drain. He finished fifth to fall to 85th in the season-long points race and was relegated to Korn Ferry qualifying school.
So distraught was India that he had trouble speaking during his post-round interview on the Golf Channel. After returning home to Chicago, he had trouble sleeping and had nightmares about what transpired.
“It wasn’t a matter of nerves in Portland or succumbing to pressure,” India insists four months later. “It was a difficult shot. I pride myself on my bunker game and short game and saw a hole-able bunker shot. If I make it and Bo misses [his birdie] we’re in a playoff. If I beat him in the playoff, I’m on the PGA Tour.”
The story didn’t end there, though. The ending, this time, was a happier one, too.
Over the weekend, India closed with a pair of 68s at Orange County National in Winter Garden, Fla., to finish at 12 under and in an 11-way tie for 30th at KFT q school — or, on the number for securing playing status in 2020. Players who finished in the top 40 in the event locked up varying levels of status on the developmental tour next season, with India guaranteed at least eight starts in the new year.
“It was more nerve-wracking than Portland,” India said during his two-day drive home. “Leading up to [q school] I didn’t feel good about where my ball was going. My short game was awesome but my driver was meh. I’d been hitting some really bad foul balls with it. I couldn’t get a feel for my irons [during practice] and wasn’t hitting shots close.”
After a few long days of practice at TPC Sawgrass leading up to the tournament, though, and noticing in a few swing videos shot by his dad that his setup had him pointing off line, India straightened things out enough at Orange County National to open with a 68. He followed with a 70 the next day before having to wait it out as things played out in the 154-man field.
While Curtis Thompson and Braden Thornberry shared medalist honors to earn full status on the Korn Ferry Tour, India anxiously waited to see where the cutoff would fall for the top 40.
Thoughts of what had happened at Pumpkin Ridge were never too far off.
“I was more mad last [season] than upset with myself,” India said of what took place in Portland. “I was pissed off because I was playing well at the time and had nowhere to go play.”
So he headed home and played casual golf with some friends to take his mind off the missed opportunity. It took about a month to get over it, he said.
“I tried to replace bad memories with good memories,” India said. “I saw friends I hadn’t seen over the summer. I tried to separate myself from the work part of golf.
“I think that did the job.”
And with it comes another shot at the PGA Tour as he gets to return to the Korn Ferry Tour next season.