Vince India always tells anyone who listens that the most important week in a professional golfer’s career is not the first start in a PGA TOUR event, but rather the second leg of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying tournament. Go through the first and second stages and guarantee at least partial status on the Korn Ferry Tour. Miss it and a long year awaits.
If anyone should know, it’s India that has participated in the final stage of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying tournament, also known as Q-School, each of the last seven times. But India doesn’t have to worry this December as the 32-year-old is enjoying an excellent season on the Korn Ferry Tour ranked 46th on the points list with only six events left, securing a spot in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and fully exempt status on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2022.
“I don’t know what I’ll do now in December. Maybe I have to go on vacation, ”joked India. “Maybe I’ll show up (at Q School) and do some kind of seminar or something.”
Note: Registration for the Korn Ferry Tour 2021 Qualifier is now live, click here.
While India hasn’t always achieved the status it wanted on the Final Stage, it has made it through at least the Second Stage in each of the last seven seasons for the past seven seasons, helping to keep the dream alive for at least another year.
“I told myself if I never regain status, if I never made it to the final, I would probably consider doing nothing,” said India. “I told myself that as long as I had Korn Ferry (Tour) status, I would continue to play professional golf.”
Although it has always earned a certain status, Q-School has not come and gone without giving India its own fair share of heartache, misery and nerves that only it can offer. At the 2015 Final Stage at PGA National, India was just one shot within the cutting line for fully exempt status with six holes remaining and howling winds. He couldn’t hold on, missing five of his last six by one, including the unfortunate break that his ball got stuck in a palm tree on the 13th hole.
“The Q school is just stress in person in my opinion,” said India. “Everyone is nervous. Nobody is having fun. You don’t gamble for (a lot) of money so there is nothing to win and everyone is in the grumpiest version of themselves if you know what I mean. For the most part it’s just a pretty unfriendly and uncomfortable process. “
However, there were fun memories too, such as the year his caddy stopped on him with nine holes remaining on the first stage in Dothan, Alabama due to the heat, while India was off the cut line with a couple of punches. No problem. He only carried his own pocket the last nine holes and banged five of his last six to get ahead.
His biggest Q-School cheer, however, was when he was completely freed for the first time on the Korn Ferry Tour in Palm Springs in 2013. In the previous six-round format, India was outside the top 100 with two rounds remaining and only the top 45 and tie gained status, but former Iowa Hawkeye fired a fifth round 67 and followed with a final round 66 on PGA West stadium course to get guaranteed starts on the number for the first time.
Even Q-School and Alcatraz, as the island green was affectionately known on the 17th, he was able to escape on the same day.
“That was extremely exciting,” India recalled. “I remember getting 2 inches on the 17th hole on the Stadium Course and then cheering 18 to get my card which was really cool. I think I banged two of the last three and nearly passed the 17th with an 8 iron to a back right pin. I remember that very vividly. That was probably the in-the-zone I could have been all my life. It was pretty wonderful. I wish I could repeat that more often. “
With the only status you can play for, Q-School increases your emotions. In the minds of most players, there are no winners at any stage, only losers. And while the Q-School doesn’t have a big wallet, the career-changing aspects of the week will keep arguing that the second phase of the Korn Ferry Tour Q-School is the most important week in a player’s career.
That kind of pressure doesn’t make it easy. India recalls being well within the cut line, walking down the fairway and breathing out a sigh of relief when he thought he could turn the last nine holes and make it anyway.
“When you are mentally not fully there and you are not in control of your mind, it just starts to spin. It’s really easy to go down a dark path. Q-School only amplifies the bad emotions and the negative things about golf, ”said India. “You don’t play to win. You’re just playing so as not to screw it up. It’s very crazy. It’s a really strange dynamic that it puts on your brain and I don’t like it. I don’t think anyone really likes it. Playing for one cut just to get to the next level isn’t a lot of fun, but somehow I got a pretty good record of it. “