Sept. 9, 2009
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, Aug. 12, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2009-10 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Call it complicated or call it coincidence. The bottom line is that Vince India is a member of University of Iowa men’s golf team where Mark Hankins is his head coach. Oh, and Hawkeye fans couldn’t be happier.
India, a junior from Deerfield, Ill., had an extensive and successful junior playing career. So successful that he attracted recruiting glances from numerous Division I coaches, including those at Illinois, Notre Dame and Michigan State. At the time, Hankins was the reigning Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year for the Spartans, and it appeared that India was ready to don the green and white. But a funny thing happened on the way to the collegiate tee box.
“This is a complicated story,” India said. “I was recruited to Iowa by (former interim head coach) Adam Kauffman and I signed in the spring. It was lucky. Looking back on it, this is probably the best decision I ever made. Then when coach Hankins ended up being the coach here, I said `this is either going to be really awkward or a good time.’ Everything has worked out well.”
“It’s kind of a coincidence,” agreed Hankins. “Vince took an official visit to Michigan State and low and behold, he ends up here and we end up coaching him any way.”
India and Hankins are part of an astonishing Hawkeye men’s golf program that took the nation by storm last season and shows no signs of letting up. On May 16 Iowa placed fifth at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Sorrento, Fla. At the NCAA championship in Toledo, Ohio, the Hawkeyes used a third-round score of 290 to finish 17th out of the 30 qualifying teams — ahead of Big Ten Conference foes Illinois, Ohio State and Northwestern.
“Last season was awesome. It’s something we haven’t had here in decades,” India said. “We have some good players on the team and we have the potential.”
Iowa snapped a 14-year NCAA tournament drought last spring. The Hawkeyes have now made six trips to nationals — 1939, ’46, ’57, ’60, ’95 and 2009.
“Last season was awesome. It’s something we haven’t had here in decades. We have some good players on the team and we have the potential.”
UI junior Vince India
India carded a team-low 56-hole score of 6-over par 219 at the national tournament. For the season, he led the Hawkeyes with a 73.2 stroke average over 34 rounds. In his career, India owns the second-best 18-hole score (64 on Sept. 29, 2008) and is tied for 11th with a 36-hole score of 139.
“Vince has continually gotten better,” Hankins said. “He is someone that works at his game. He’s a technician and likes to work on his golf swing a lot. He really shines when he works on his short game, his wedges and putting, because his ball-striking is usually pretty darn good.”
There is unfinished business for India, namely winning a collegiate tournament.
“My goal has got to be to win a tournament,” India said. “I came in second last year at the Landfall Tradition (Oct. 24-26 in Wilmington, N.C.). I’m a little bit closer to winning that first tournament and there’s an added confidence boost in my game now. I know I can win a tournament.”
“Vince has had some really good rounds,” Hankins said. “There were times last year where he had an opportunity to win a golf tournament and didn’t quite get it done. He finished top five, top 10, so that gives him confidence.”
Dan India, Vince’s father, is credited for introducing the future Hawkeye to the game of golf when India was “eight or nine.” What began as lessons evolved into tournaments. As India’s experience grew, his scores lowered.
“I started filling out my resume and I realized I could go someplace with golf,” India said. “That’s why I’m here now.”
Golf wasn’t the only activity that vied for India’s time when he was growing up. He also played basketball until his sophomore year of high school and was a member of a traveling soccer team. When basketball and soccer began chiseling away at golf practice, India decided to specialize. Listed at 5-foot-11, 140-pounds, he still packs a pretty powerful punch on the course. That plays right into one of Hankin’s signature coaching principles of having a fit group of golfers.
“Vince is somebody who leads by his golf score and his knowledge. The other guys look up to him. His next step is to get three consistent rounds that are under par and that will help him win golf tournaments.”
UI head men’s golf coach
“Our first day of practice we had running at 7:29 a.m.,” India said. “That shows how physical coach Hankins is. He likes lots of running, lots of stairs. We do medicine ball stuff in the offseason — lots of core strength with sit-ups, push-ups, back work, squats. He’s a big fan of working out, so I’m not going to go against it.”
In June, the Golf Coaches Association of America named India to its PING All-Region team, along with teammate Cole Peevler, who has graduated. In August, India stormed back to fire a then-course record 68 over the final 18 holes to win the Iowa Open Golf Championship on Blue Top Ridge in Riverside, Iowa.
The Hawkeyes opened the fall season by placing second at the Golfweek Conference Challenge (also at Blue Top Ridge), eight strokes behind Florida State. India tied for 22nd with a 56-hole score of 219. His second-round 71 helped Iowa card a score of 280 and grab a four-stroke lead over the Seminoles after the second of three days.
“Vince is somebody who leads by his golf score and his knowledge,” Hankins said. “The other guys look up to him. His next step is to get three consistent rounds that are under par and that will help him win golf tournaments.”
Aside from being extraordinary on a golf course, India guarantees that he is a `normal college kid.’
“I like to hang out with my friends, play other sports and listen to music,” he said. “I’m a big fan of video games — anything to have a good time.”
India’s preferred video playlist includes Call of Duty, Halo, NCAA Football and Grand Theft Auto IV. Conspicuously missing is Tiger Woods 2010 PGA Tour.
“I’ve stayed away from the Tiger Woods video games, to be honest,” India said.
After all, the game of golf is real life for India. And life is good.