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Golf career doesn't end after graduating for former Iowa golfers

BY TOMMY REINKING | OCTOBER 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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Competition doesn’t end after graduating for Iowa men’s golfers.

Vince India, Brad Hopfinger, Barrett Kelpin, and Chris Brant are competing in Qualifying School (commonly known as Q-School) events in three different states in an attempt to become members of the PGA Tour.

“It’s what we’ve been waiting for,” head coach Mark Hankins said. “Iowa [universities are] only represented by Zach Johnson, a Drake graduate. That’s sad that only one player out there is from the state of Iowa. We’ve got four players who have a chance to make that jump.”

The path to becoming a professional won’t be an easy one for the quartet. The athletes must make it through four days of qualifying with eliminations happening each day.

It’s stressful, but it’s worth it.

“It all comes down to enjoying the journey,” Brant said. “If you get stressed with all the steps, it'll consume your mind. It becomes so much more enjoyable when you just enjoy the process.”

If the players make it through the first stage of qualifying, they advance to the second stage, which will take place on Nov. 13-17. Then, golfers who play well enough in the second stage will advance to the third and final stage on Nov. 28-Dec. 3.

Players who make it all the way through the lengthy qualifying process, which adds up to 14 rounds, will be able to play in the web.com tour. Hankins said the tour is essentially the minor leagues of golf tours.

The possibility of having professional golfers who played for the Hawkeyes not only benefits those players, it aids the program.

“If they make it, it will give our program that much more clout,” Hankins said. “Basically, kids are looking to get to the next level. Kids who I recruit want to play professional golf. If we can get one or two guys through, it would be great.”

Hankins doesn’t just bring golfers with potential onto the team and let them play. The sixth-year coach teaches things like work ethic, how to live a healthy lifestyle, and how to play in big tournaments against quality opponents.

“The biggest thing we learned was how to compete every single week,” Hopfinger said. “It’s something Coach Hankins strives for. We always look ahead to what’s next.”

Hopfinger and India, who both graduated in 2011, are competing in Palm Desert, Calif. Hopfinger is tied for first place, and India is tied for 66th. Brant is tied for 37th place in the tournament at Lakeland, Fla., and Kelpin is tied for 45th in the event in Kannapolis, N.C.

Hopfinger admitted there are a few adjustments that need to be made when making the transition from college to professional golf.

“You have to get used to playing for money,” the Lake Forest, Ill., native said. “Each shot could mean thousands of dollars. In college, we were always told to ignore distractions. Money is just another distraction you have to learn to ignore.”

Hankins hopes to continue to create a pathway for players looking to compete professionally, something he started doing as soon as he took over the helm of Iowa men’s golf six years ago.

“Golf is a learning sport,” he said. “It’s not how fast you are or how far you hit it. There’s a lot of different ways to be the best player. There are a million things you can learn in golf.”


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