Q&A with T.J. Vogel
October 22, 2018
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- T.J. Vogel Monday qualified into eight PGA TOUR events this past season, and now turns his attention to Web.com Tour Q-School. (Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)
T.J. Vogel proved over and over again this year that if it came down to one round, he wasn’t afraid to go low.
As the PGA TOUR’s latest ‘Mr. Monday,’ Vogel Monday qualified for eight TOUR events this past season, breaking an unofficial record for most successful Monday forays that was set just a few years ago by Patrick Reed.
Vogel made three cuts in those eight starts, and found himself back at First Stage of Web.com Tour Q-School this fall. It was a worldly season for Vogel, who also played three tournaments on the Web.com Tour, four events on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, and once on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada.
Despite sitting at 1-over par through two rounds at his First Stage site in West Palm Beach, Florida, Vogel tapped into the mindset that propelled him through eight one-day qualifiers and shot 65-66 over the final two rounds to comfortably advance to Second Stage.
As he prepares for Second Stage, Vogel spent a few minutes with PGA TOUR Digital chatting about eclectic travel experiences, playing the 2013 Masters as an amateur and more.
The Florida-born, California-raised pro settles the debate between two of America’s most popular burger chains, as well.
How tight was your bank account at this time last year?
It was tight. You go so long since (the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada season) ends in the middle of September and realistically you don’t have anything to play in – unless you Monday qualify – until the season gets going again for the Web.com Tour in January. That’s a long time. It’s about three-and-a-half to four months without earning a paycheck. That’s where you see you’re spending money and not making it. That’s the hardest time of the year. You see your money in your bank account go away (laughs), and then the new year comes around and you’re struggling. You’re thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to afford to travel and play the way I’d like to?’ You need to play well in the tournaments you get into, so then you have money to keep going. That was the situation I was in last year.
You had to try to find a way to float through in-between seasons?
Exactly. Last year I didn’t have any outside help. Previously I did, but last year wasn’t a year I was able to round up some help. I’m glad I could do it on my own.
At one of your Monday qualifiers (for the John Deere Classic), you had to play with a borrowed set of clubs. Was that the most stressful one, or was the first one the most stressful because you didn’t know when your next payday was going to be?
(The John Deere) was the most frustrating one for me. I had just narrowly missed the cut at (A Military Tribute at) The Greenbrier by one stroke, and I was pretty pissed, to be honest. I didn’t make anything. I played pretty solid tee-to-green but couldn’t get anything in the hole. I was disappointed to miss that cut. I drove to Charlotte and flew out of there, but they lost my clubs. They lost them for a week! They had no idea where they were. No clue and no updates. The Titleist van was on-site at the John Deere, so they were awesome and didn’t have my exact clubs but could build a set comparable to mine. They were decent.
It was frustrating because I got a sponsor invite to John Deere when I first turned pro – I liked the golf course and I liked the event, so I knew it was a tournament I could play well at and maybe make some cash. So to have that happen right then was really frustrating. All in all, I shot 4-under and could have made it – I missed a couple 4-footers and realistically it could have easily happened and it would have been kind of funny (laughs).
Do you have any more nightmare travel stories from the year?
John Deere was an absolute nightmare, but another nightmare was the RBC Canadian Open. I flew into Toronto and my bags didn’t make it on the flight … again. I flew in Saturday night and instead of picking up my clubs Sunday morning on the next flight, they had to deliver them to me because it was an international flight, so I was not allowed to pick them up from baggage claim. I had to wait at my hotel all day, which was three minutes from the airport, no joke. They dropped my bag off at 3 p.m. after the flight had got in at 9:30 a.m. I had to wait for six hours. My bag must have been the last one dropped off that day.
Out of all the events you got into this year which one did you enjoy the most?
I enjoyed (the) Valspar (Championship) the most. I liked the golf course and it was nice to get a paycheck. It was nice to see my name on the leaderboard, and I was up there towards the end. It could have been a really special week. I hit it super good on Sunday but I didn’t make anything. It was a real nice experience for me. When I was playing well, I knew my good was good enough. That was the most enjoyable.
The best course? Quail Hollow (site of the Wells Fargo Championship). I played the Masters as an amateur, so I got to play Augusta National, but I believe Quail Hollow is just a notch below it. It was that good.
Do you think back to that week at the Masters very often?
It feels more like a dream now. It was a little while ago, and at that point I was still in college. It felt like a surreal experience. Hopefully when I get there as a pro, I’ll be able to remember a little bit more. It felt like a dream.
Do you have any Masters keepsakes from when you played?
I’ve got my yardage book, but for some reason I lost the yardage cover and it’s just devastating (laughs). It says ‘Masters 2013’ on it, so obviously only people who played in the Masters that year have one, so that’s something that’s special to have and I’ve somehow misplaced it. It’s extremely disappointing, so I really want to get back and get another yardage cover. That’s not the number-one reason I want to get back (laughs), but I’ll keep eyes on that new one for sure.
When your friends on the PGA TOUR would see you week after week this year, what was their reaction?
The first few times, it was like, ‘Again?’ They were kind of nice about it, saying ‘Good job.’ By the end of the year, it was like they weren’t shocked at all. They were just like, ‘Hey, good to see you again.’ It was kind of like I was on TOUR, basically, even though I know I wasn’t. Getting into eight events in a year was pretty sweet, so it felt kind of normal.
Was the check you cashed at the Valspar Championship your biggest?
That was the biggest check I’ve ever made by far. If I didn’t miss a 3-footer on 17, it would have doubled, too. That’s when you know you’re playing for some serious cash. It’s totally different, but it’s fun.
What ended up changing at Q-School from the first two rounds to the second two rounds?
I don’t exactly know what happened the first two days. It was extremely confusing. I was frustrated. I had been playing well all year, basically … even at home in practice or two weeks before when I had a solid tune-up event in California. My game felt good and I was even on the par-5s through two days. I was three-putting, I was doing all sorts of dumb things and I wasn’t scoring. On the third day, I was 2-over through three after starting on the back nine, and 3-over for the tournament. I couldn’t even believe it. I thought, ‘You have to go now, or go home.’ There was no in-between. I finally got something go my way – I had an eagle putt lip-in and I got back to even par – and finally stuff was going my way and I started playing much better.
It was probably the most relief I’ve ever felt. My worst-place finish at First Stage was a fourth. I’ve always shown up and dominated. I seem to always get to Final Stage, but I just haven’t put it together. Second Stage, I get to go home and stay with my parents so I’ll be relaxed to take care of business and hopefully onwards to Final and take care of business again.
You’re going back to Florida, where you’re from, but you live in California now, so who wins in your eyes between In-N-Out and Shake Shack?
It’s not even close. It’s In-N-Out. Again: it’s not even close.