Iowa had an interim golf coach when Vince India signed a letter of intent to play for the Hawkeyes in 2007.
Mark Hankins left Michigan State to take over the Iowa program before India enrolled. In addition to India, Hankins inherited a team ranked 155th in the country.
The Hawkeyes, who finished fourth Sunday at the Kepler Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, are now ranked 11th in the country. And India, a senior from Deerfield, Ill., is ranked fifth nationally by Golfstat.com and seventh by Golfweek.
“It’s kind of shocking how much this program has turned around in such little time,” India said. “It’s come with a lot of good players, a really good coach and a lot of hard work.”
India, who packs a lot of punch in his 5-foot-11, 140-pound frame, matches his team’s rise to prominence.
His stroke average this spring season, 71.6, is nearly three shots lower than it was the spring of his freshman season and nearly two shots lower than a spring ago.
Hankins points to India playing a more demanding summer schedule in 2010 — he won the Illinois Amateur by seven shots — better putting and a growth in the mental toughness department for that number dropping.
“This season is more about his putting,” Hankins said. “His ball striking has always been pretty good. His mental game and preparation are better. Vince has just matured and progressed each year to the point where he understands how to best prepare for a tournament.”
India has won or shared medalist honors three times as a senior — at the Golfweek Conference Challenge last fall and the Baylor Intercollegiate and Hawkeye-TaylorMade Invitational this spring. He finished fourth Sunday at the Kepler Invitational.
“To me, it’s pretty satisfying to have all the hard work over the summer paying off,” India said. “I didn’t work (a job) a lot over the summer. It was a time in my life where I wanted to take my game up a notch, and I sacrificed making money to turn it into practice hours.”
India also credits Hankins for instilling a mental edge missing from his game earlier in his career.
“He’s really good at developing players,” India said. “He turns us into strong mental players. He talks about grinding out the rounds. He wants us to keep pushing.”
And then, of course, there’s his touch on the greens.
“My putting has improved dramatically,” India said. “And my short game is a lot better, but I’m not talking about chipping. I mean my wedges from 100 yards on in.”
So does India have a professional future in the game after his college career ends?
“That’s up to him,” Hankins said. “He’s got to concentrate on college golf now. I had a player at Michigan State, Matt Harmon, who was all-Big Ten (in 2007). We didn’t talk about pro golf until the season was over. If Vince does a good job, there will be plenty of agents and (equipment representatives) lined up ready to talk to him about turning pro.”
The business at hand is the Big Ten Championship starting Friday in West Lafayette, Ind. The Hawkeyes finished 10th in India’s freshman season, sixth in 2009 and second last season. Iowa’s only Big Ten title came in 1992 on its home course, Finkbine. Iowa finished dead last in the two seasons before Hankins took over the program.
Another senior, Brad Hopfinger, and juniors Chris Brant and Barrett Kelpin have also played significant roles in Iowa’s march up the standings.
“It’s going to be a tough course, and pretty long,” India said. “It will test all of our games. But we’ll prepare for that, and hopefully take the title back to Iowa City.”