One of the Valley’s greatest characteristics is its golf courses, with lush holes that are playable year-round everywhere you turn. Vinnie Iñiguez, a 31-year-old Long Beach, Calif. native who has lived in the Valley for about the past 20 years, made golf his career more than 5 years ago, with the PGA Tour in his sights while calling ASU Karsten in Tempe his home course. Iñiguez has Bachelor’s degrees in accounting and agricultural business from Arizona State University and played golf for Phoenix College, and he is currently sponsored by PING, Pure Grips, and Triplex Training, among others. He shared his motivation to turn pro, along with why he loves living in the Valley, below.
What brought you to Arizona?
Family. My dad came out here for work. I’ve been out in the Valley for about 20 years.
When did you first start playing golf?
I started playing golf as a joke in high school. I was a baseball player — ever since I could walk, I had a whiffle bat in my hand. No one in my family plays golf. A friend of my brother’s asked me to try out for the Thunderbird High School team. Our home course is Moon Valley Country Club. The try-outs were 27 holes, and you can usually only play if you’re a member, so I decided to head out. I was not good at all. I could hit the ball and advance it straight, but I could recognize I was getting in the guys’ way. I fell in love with the game, so I asked the coach what I needed to do to get better. He gave me a breakdown, so for the next year I played golf every day twice a day, and I made the team the next year.
What’s your schedule like?
The schedule can be sporadic. Sometimes you’re on the road anywhere from 2-6 weeks in a row. Sometimes, you have a few weeks off where you just work on the game. It’s definitely a tough game but very humbling for sure. A lot of times, when people think of professional golfers, they think boom, there you are on tour, like the of the Rory McIlroy’s or the Rickie Fowler’s and whatnot. Those guys are less than 1 percent of golfers. But most guys that you see up there grind it out and put in years of work. They road trip it and sleep in their cars. It’s definitely not the type of lifestyle that people think of at first. You definitely do it for the passion of the game. Most other professional sports, guys have a contract, and whether they’re playing or not, they’re getting paid. This is a commission job — if you’re not playing, then you’re not getting paid.
What’s your typical day like?
I’m getting ready for the PGA of Canada Q-school in April. My days are long. I’m usually up by 5 a.m., I’m out the door by 6 at the latest. I usually do a little yoga before I head out. I’ll go to the gym and run — I usually try to run at least 15 miles a week, which has helped a ton at finishing events. It helps give a bit of an edge to be able to keep from fatiguing. If you’re not in shape and able to walk the full 18 holes, it can mentally drain you, as well as physically. My trainer and my philosophy is long and lean — you can’t get too big because you have to turn, so it’s a lot of core exercises. The biggest thing is eating properly.
What are your goals with golf?
My short-term goal is getting on the PGA Tour Canada, and the goal ultimately is to play on the PGA Tour, which will come. It will get there. Everything is a process, but as long as you keep climbing and achieving your short term goals, you’ll get to the ultimate goal in whatever it is that you do. Another part of those goals is giving back to the community. I work with First Tee Phoenix when I’m able to. And the long hair everybody teases me about — it’s something I’m doing for Locks of Love. A really good friend of mine, his sister had cancer, and her story inspired me. Since I have the ability to grow my hair out since I’m not confined to an office, I’m growing my hair out for Locks of Love. It’s nice to bring different groups that probably wouldn’t have come together with golf. Golf is one of those sports where there are so many people you can reach with it and bring together, which is awesome.
What makes you a professional golfer?
Any other sport, there’s always someone who tells you you’re cut, or you’re not good enough, and someone else makes that judgement for you. Golf is one of those things where you have to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Is this something I want to pursue? Is this a realistic idea?’ It took me awhile to take the leap to play full-time in 2007. My swing coach had pushed me for awhile, and I thought about it, and it was a big and scary decision. My buddy David said, ‘You’ve got your education, and whether it works out or not, it’s going to be an awesome journey.’ And it’s worked out so far. It’s not for the faint of heart, but whatever you’re reaching for, just make the leap.
When is the best time to turn pro?
I’m not one to tell someone not to do something. If you want to try it out, there are so many great tournaments to play in Arizona. Just remember there’s golf, and then there’s tournament golf, which is a whole different animal. If you’re not going to believe in yourself, no one else is going to believe in you.
Where have you traveled for golf?
I’ve played tournaments in Canada, Mexico and throughout the U.S.
What’s your favorite course you’ve played?
Have you played the Tournament Players Club in Scottsdale?
Yes. Most people are used to seeing it on TV and the crowds of people, but it’s so wide open. Even just to go get lunch there outside of the event is totally worth going to see. It’s definitely one of the most unique events. If you can go to any one outside of the majors, I would say that should be on your top two, for sure. it’s fun.
Who are your favorite golfers?
There’s a lot of solid guys. One guy who is younger who motivated me and inspired me is Payne Stewart. There was something about that guy. He was the only guy on tour who wore knickers. There’s also so much to take from Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer — they’re just very wise people, and a lot of stuff they say is very inspiring. Even outside of golf, it can help you with any frustration you have.
What’s the biggest event you’ve ever played?
I won an NAIA national championship representing ASU a few years ago. That was really fun. The Jones Cup in Florida was pretty solid — I represented ASU there, as well.
Have you ever met fellow Arizonan and pro golfer Bubba Watson?
One of my sponsors is PING. When I first got on with them, the PING representative here called and said that my appointment needed to be changed. I called back, and a guy picks up the phone and says, “Hello, this is Bubba.” I had no clue I was talking to Bubba Watson, but he was hilarious. I got there and started talking to Bill, the representative, who told me I had chatted with Bubba Watson. He was on the course range hitting shots, and it was pretty solid, pretty neat — it was a great way to get set up with PING. Billy Mayfair went to ASU and Camelback High School. My coach at Phoenix College coached Billy at Camelback.
What are your best golf tips?
Patience, patience, patience. If you’re just patient and let things happen, if something’s not happening at this moment, it will happen, whether it takes two holes, three holes, four rounds later, you just have to stick with it and keep it simple.
How do you get over rough times?
We all have ruts. I always say, ‘Never underestimate the power of a smile.’ No matter how bad it is, it could be worse, it could be better, but if you’re right in the middle, you’re always good.
What are the best and worst parts of your golf game?
I think the worst part is myself. I think we tend to get in our own way. Sometimes I get in my own way too much, and my swing coach always yells at me. I also work with a short game sports psychologist. She’s always adamant about me getting out of my own way. Probably my best part is, I love putting, and that’s where you score, so I guess my short game is pretty solid.
What’s your opinion of belly putters?
It’s a big thing right now. A lot of people are getting amped up about it and how it’s going to affect the game and the Tours. For me, I don’t mind them, but I just wouldn’t put one into play. I don’t feel comfortable with them, but putting is all in your head. Golfers are funny, it’s all in our heads. So I can appreciate where some of the frustration is coming from on the players’ end. You can’t mess with what works.
Do you have any rituals or good luck charms?
I think if something’s working, I won’t mess with it. I have an ASU coin ball marker I got from Billy Mayfair a long time ago, so I keep that in my bag as a reminder of where you start out from and all the hard work. I’m sure if you asked my buddies, they’d say I have weird quirks, but off the top of my head, I only put my glove in my left pocket, and I always mark my golf balls two ways.
Is there a specific part of the game that you excel at?
Lately, it can change day by day, week by week, you never know. One day, I’ll played an event where I shot an 81 the first day, and my buddy I traveled with is asking me to caddy for him. I’m like, ‘We still have a day left before the cut.’ The next day, I could have been playing left-handed, and everything would have gone my way. The cut was one over, and I made the cut at the number. It was ridiculous, and my buddy missed the cut. Guess who caddied for whom? You’re never out of it until you’re out of it. The big thing with golfers, whether you’re recreational or professional, so many times, we associate our score with who we are, but those are two separate things. Just because you shot an 80 one day doesn’t define the person you are. You’ve got to separate the two and just keep your head up.
What’s the best game you’ve ever had?
Besides that one I just mentioned, which I thought was pretty solid because I had an event and made the cut, most recently was a few months ago. It was a 1-day deal, I tweaked my back, I didn’t play for 4 days, and I didn’t want to play or touch a golf club, but I decided to play anyway. I went out and shot a 63, and it was a fun day and felt effortless. That was pretty fun. It was one of those days where, when you stand out of your way and let things happen instead of forcing it, it happens.
Have you ever hit a hole-in-one?
Yes. It was 3 days after my birthday about 3 years ago. A bunch of buddies of mine wanted to get together and play some golf. We were supposed to play 36 holes, so we went to Aguila in Laveen. It was number 8, a par 4, over water. It was awesome. I don’t think I’ve even cleaned the dirt off the ball. It was two buddies and some random guy who was paired with us. The other special thing about it was that my previous swing coach and great friend, Janet Anderson, is the golf pro over at Aguila. She was there, so it was neat to be able to share that with her. Most people think the toughest shot to make in golf is the hole-in-one, but it’s actually the albatross, which is a double-eagle. That’s a par 5, making it in two, or a par 4, making a hole-in-one. I was very lucky to get the toughest shot in golf and also a hole-in-one on the same swing.
What’s your best mental tip for the game?
Most of the times, we’re so busy and so far in front of or behind ourselves, that we’re not in the moment. Try to really be there in the moment.
How would you describe your golf fashion?
I like to be pressed. I like creases. I’m not too flashy in colors or in crazy pants, but I guess I’ve gotten a little louder in the pants. And the kicks — gotta love the kicks. I like pressed and casual — as long as I can go out on the course with it, I’m fine.
When’s your next event?
What’s your opinion of indoor virtual golf?
In most of the places, you hit off mats. Just to go to enjoy yourself, it’s awesome, and if that’s all you have, then great, do it. It’s better than nothing. But if you have the option of going outside and hitting, definitely do that over mats. They’re fun, though, they give you the opportunity to play courses you couldn’t everyday.
What’s the best way for someone to learn golf?
Grab a club, and put it in your hands. In Arizona, golf is a billion-dollar industry. You’re a wedge out of most any golf course. Go to a golf course, and talk to a professional there. Just go with it. Now, with so many things online, you can even teach yourself through watching golf lessons online by people such as Jeff Ritter, who has also been a mentor, as well, for me. Pick up a club, and have fun. As long as you’re having fun, that’s the most important thing.
Do you ever see yourself becoming a teacher or a pro or a manager?
I don’t think I’d ever want to be a manager at a golf course. I just love being on a golf course — I could sit here all day — but I’m very competitive and a very passionate person, so that drives me. Golf is something where you want to beat someone their best potential, not when they’re down, but you’re also playing against the golf course, and at the nd of the day, it’s who beat the golf course. That’s your opponent. You really don’t start playing other players until maybe the last stretch of the event because you sort of have to gauge, but you’re ultimately still playing the golf course. I try to stay even keel and not get too up or down. I’ve helped assistant coach at Chandler-Gilbert Community College for both the ladies’ and men’s teams. It’s awesome to see those guys wanting to elevate their game to the next level and anyone for that matter, but at the end of the day it’s important to remember golf is a game so remember to always have fun.