India misfires in his shot at first win on the Korn Ferry Tour

Vince India’s breakthrough win on a professional tour will have to wait. The former University of Iowa golfer from Deerfield, took a four-stroke lead into the final round of the King & Bear Classic on the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour on Saturday and couldn’t protect it.

India soared to 4-over-par 76 in the final round, thereby handing the title to Chris Kirk who started the day in second place. Kirk, who has five wins on the PGA Tour, took his third on the Korn Ferry circuit thanks to a final round 67.

The story of the day, though, was more India’s collapse than Kirk’s victory. India, 31, was red hot for the first three rounds on the King & Bear Course at World Golf Village. He opened with rounds of 63, 66 and a course record-tying 62 before his collapse on Saturday.

India wound up in an eight-way tie tie for sixth place with, among others, Northbrook’s Nick Hardy. Hardy started the day nine strokes off the lead and wound up matching India’s 21-under-par showing for the 72 holes. Kirk’s 26-under set the pace and was worth $108,000.

“It was definitely a day that didn’t play out as I envisioned’’ said Kirk. “With Vince playing so well I thought I’d need to be 30-under to have a chance.’’

“I just tried to stick to my plan,’’ said India. “I wanted to get to 30-under.’’

Low scores were commonplace on the King & Bear – the only course jointly designed by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer on grounds that include the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, FL.

India – one of just 10 players with victories in both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open – is capable of putting up low numbers. He was leading the Portland Open, last event of the Korn Ferry’s 2019 season, when he made double bogey on the final hole. That left him outside of the circuit’s postseason playoffs and send him back to the tour’s qualifying tournament. He was undaunted, though.

“It was certainly inspiring,’’ said India. “Things just didn’t go my way on the last hole.’’

India made five eagles in the subsequent qualifying tournament at Orange County National in Florida and finished in a tie for 30th. That earned him a place in the first eight events of the 2020 season. The first six were played before the pandemic halted tournament play in March. At that point India had made just three cuts and was in danger of losing regular playing privileges.

When play resumed two weeks ago, however, he came out with solid play in two new events in Florida. He finished in a tie for 10th in the first in Ponte Vedra prior to his tie for sixth in St. Augustine. Those two weeks boosted him from 134th on the Korn Ferry standings to 38th and it’ll keep him on the tee sheet for the next segment of Korn Ferry events. The circuit resumes on Thursday with the Utah Championship.

Due to the pandemic, the top 25 on the Korn Ferry circuit who gain admittance to the PGA Tour won’t be determined until the fall of 2021. That leaves India with plenty of time to move up to the premier circuit.

“There’s such a fine line between this tour and the PGA Tour,’’ he said. “Not a lot of people really know that. There are a lot of guys who can gel with the PGA Tour fellas and win majors right away. The talent out here is supreme.’’

The Korn Ferry Tour has two Illinois stops – the Lincoln Land Championship at Panther Creek in Springfield Sept. 3-6 and the Evans Scholars Invitational at Chicago Highlands in Westchester Sept. 10-13. Both are $600,000 events that had been scheduled earlier in the season and then were postponed due to pandemic concerns.