ATLANTA, GEORGIA | When you have a month like Travis Vick had earlier this summer, you hope to wring the most out of a year.
The golfer’s high that Vick enjoyed – qualifying for the U.S. Open on May 23, scoring the clinching point to win the NCAA Championship on June 1, and then finishing as low amateur in the U.S. Open on June 19 at The Country Club where Francis Ouimet pretty much defined the concept – earns name recognition, and with that comes a lot of perks.
Vick’s Texas Longhorns concluded the fall season against their NCAA championship rivals in this week’s East Lake Cup, but Vick’s fall is just getting started. For the next fortnight, he will stray from the college realm and dip his toe into the professional ranks. The senior was invited to compete in next week’s World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba in Mexico and after that the Cadence Bank Houston Open in his hometown.
“That’s exciting for a young man like him,” said Texas coach John Fields. “I mean, he’s earned it, obviously, with a putt to help us win the national championship and playing great in Scottsdale last season and then following that up with a low amateur in the U.S. Open. He certainly has opened up some opportunities for himself, and he deserves to go down there and play some good golf.”
The late invite to Mexico scuttled Vick’s commitment to play in the East West Matches next week, but the folks at Maridoe insisted he take advantage of the opportunity to tee it up at Mayakoba. It could be vitally important to improving his standing in PGA Tour University, where Vick ranks No. 6 and hopes to move much higher with good showings in the next two weeks. The top five in PGA Tour U at the end of the 2023 collegiate season secure Korn Ferry Tour status. With a proposed enhancement due by the time Vick finishes in Houston, the top graduate might get immediate PGA Tour status.
“The PGA Tour U thing is really great, and if you do miss the cut on that ranking system, you only get eight points. So, it incentivizes you to make the cut, and then if you do make the cut you can obtain a lot of points. – Travis Vick
So, Vick isn’t taking a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula and a hometown start in Houston for granted. This is serious business.
“The PGA Tour U thing is really great, and if you do miss the cut on that ranking system, you only get eight points,” he said of the lucrative value of his tour exemptions. “So, it incentivizes you to make the cut, and then if you do make the cut you can obtain a lot of points. So, my goal is obviously to make the cut in these events, but I think you have to have the mindset that you’re trying to win or else you’re gonna play conservative, and that kind of affects your strategy. … I would like to win, but I’ll be satisfied with making cuts.
“It sounds to me like there’s going to be a lot of changes surrounding this (PGA Tour U) system very soon. They’re meeting (Nov. 14), and there could possibly be a tour card on the line. So, playing well in every event is obviously important, but especially on the PGA Tour.”
Vick certainly has the pedigree to be the next superstar out of Texas that has produced a couple of world No. 1s in the past decade with Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler. He’s the fifth Longhorn to finish low amateur at the U.S. Open, and the previous four all went on to win majors: Scheffler, Spieth, Justin Leonard and Ben Crenshaw.
Vick has even more immediate role models. His NCAA title teammates from June – twins Pierceson and Parker Coody – made the most of their PGA Tour U degrees this summer.
Pierceson quickly made a splash in the pro ranks by winning his third start on the Korn Ferry Tour to secure status for 2023. Parker won his sixth start on PGA Tour Canada and secured full-time KFT status via advancing to the final stage of Q School.
Despite his own success and the reality that Texas is in a rebuilding mode after last year’s title, Vick never considered leaving early. “The PGA Tour University is built for a guy like him to stay for four years,” Fields said. “Travis is going to graduate on time. That was never a thought to go early.”
It wasn’t just PGA Tour U that brought him back, but finishing his education was imperative.
“He’s always focused on getting Plan B and getting a degree,” said Vick’s father, Trey.
Being a senior leader on a talented but young team is also another building block to Vick’s development.
“Throughout my entire collegiate experience, I’ve always been kind of looking up to Cole (Hammer) and the Coodys, and they’re the ones that would advise me,” Vick said. “Now the roles are flipped. I’m the leader of the team and I’m trying to advise these freshmen, you know, how to go about their practice schedule and where to go for lunch and stuff like that. So, I enjoy the leadership role.”
Vick is not your average athlete to take the path into golf. He’s built like a linebacker, which he played at an all-state level along with quarterback at Second Baptist School in Houston. He was a three-sport star through his junior year in high school before going all-in on golf, also playing baseball as a pitcher and third baseman well enough to draw interest from Division I college recruiters.
But it’s golf that always piqued Vick’s interest. He picked up the game at age 3 and won his first tournament when he was in kindergarten. By the time he graduated from high school, Vick had a loaded resume that included a No. 2 Golfweek/Sagarin junior ranking, AJGA Rolex Junior all-American, Junior Players Championship winner, U.S. Junior Amateur medalist and two-time Texas state high school champion.
Of Trey Vick’s three kids, Travis was the only one who drifted naturally to the golf course, and it was noticeable immediately. “When he hit it on the range, I thought, Hmm,” his father said of Vick’s first golf experience. “He had an old temperament.”
That temperament combined with his multisport athleticism translates well to modern golf.
“In today’s game, if you’re athletic and you have speed – which he’s got both those attributes – that’s two of the major key ingredients to success these days,” Fields said. “You need to be able to move that golf ball out there a long way, and you need to be able to have speed when you’re in the rough and all those different things. So, he’s got that and he’s developing and getting better and better with his short game, so it’s an exciting time for Travis Vick.”
Vick’s U.S. Open experience – he played the final round with Brooks Koepka in front of huge Boston crowds and shot four strokes lower than the four-time major champ – should serve him well in Mexico and Houston.
“Brookline was amazing – the U.S. Open, that’s almost the pinnacle of golf, you could argue – so learning how to play golf in that type of atmosphere is completely different than playing with your buddies on a random Saturday,” Vick said. “And the U.S. Open has allowed me to figure out stuff emotionally and learn how to play in front of large crowds like that. And I think Mayakoba would be no different, maybe less fans.
“In Houston, there’ll be a large chunk of my friends there, so I’ll feel more at home. I think it’s more comfortable because I know everybody’s out there pulling for me. It’s familiar territory, too, familiar weather and I’ll get to sleep in my own bed.”
That same bed where Vick dreamed about reaching the highest level in golf – a dream that’s never been closer.
“I mean, that’s the dream that everybody who has started this game at a young age has,” he said. “To be able to be given a sponsor exemption, there’s just a lot of humility that surrounds that. I’m very thankful for the opportunity, and I hope to make the most of it.”
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