Men's golf's India sparkles at Blue Top Ridge


He started the final round 11 shots behind the leader, and the geography of the golf course wasn’t exactly easy, either.

But Iowa junior Vince India, a Deerfield, Ill., native, won the Iowa Open at Blue Top Ridge in Riverside on Aug. 22 after shooting the best round of the tournament with a 68 (4 under) to finish the championship at 220 (4 over).

India got some help from Waukee native Tracy Vest, who began the final round at 3 under but shot an 81 for a final score of 222 — good enough for a second-place tie with Ryan McClintock of Bettendorf.

After struggling in the first round with a 78 and suffering a devastating triple-bogey during a rainy second round to finish the day with a 74, India said his driving ability in the final round was key to the low final-round score.

“I was hitting the fairways on almost every hole,” he said. “I usually hit my irons well and can give myself birdie opportunities as long as I can get good drives in the fairway.”

India shot five birdies in the final round before a bogey on 17.

Once the ball slipped into the cup on No. 18 for par, India had to wait for six groups — including Vest in the final group — to finish before he knew the final standings.

“When I finished, my coach [Mark Hankins] said the leader was having a tough day, and I should stick around,” India said.

Vest, who shot six bogeys and two double-bogeys in the final round, had a chance to force a playoff by mastering a birdie on No. 18. But the assistant pro at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club did not capitalize and finished the hole with a bogey.

India said his first “professional” victory was surreal and admitted he didn’t think his final score would be good enough for a win.

“I didn’t feel like a 68 would even put me in contention with how well Tracy was playing,” India said. “I felt bad for Tracy, but I was proud of myself for making such a great comeback especially on such a hard course.”

Iowa golf coach Mark Hankins said it was nice to see India improve his score each day as he got a better feel for the course and commended the junior for shooting the best round he could.

“It’s really nice to see if you go out and take care of your own business, you are rewarded with a win,” Hankins said. “A 68 is a good score anytime, and on a quality course like Blue Top Ridge, it’s that much better.”

Six other Hawkeye golfers participated in the tournament, and two others were able to finish in the top 10. Sophomore Chris Brant finished with a 224 for a sixth-place tie, and junior Brad Hopfinger posted a 225 for a 10th-place tie.

Hopfinger and India led all Iowa golfers with 10 total birdies in the tournament.

The Hawkeyes will get another opportunity to play at Blue Top Ridge Saturday through Sept. 1, when they will cohost Golfweek’s Conference Challenge. The 54-hole event is the first collegiate tournament of the fall and consists of 15 teams from 15 different conferences.

“It was nice to do a run through and see how the scores turned out,” Hankins said. “Anytime you can play the same course a couple of times, it helps with practice.”

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