Florida Southern’s John VanDerLaan Set to Begin his Professional Career at the Barbasol Championship
John VanDerLaan is the 2018 Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year Award presented by Barbasol winner for Division II and was also a three-time finalist for the award. VanDerLaan won an exemption into the 2018 Barbasol Championship by beating the four other Jack Nicklaus Award winners in an 18-hole shootout at Scioto Country Club, where Nicklaus played while growing up in Columbus, Ohio. VanDerLaan was victorious by three strokes over his competition and will be making his first PGA Tour start this week at the Barbasol Championship played at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky.
Q: Your 2017-18 college season was one for the record books. Highlights included eight tournament wins including the Division II National Individual Championship being named Ping First Team All-America for the third time and finally being named the Division II Jack Nicklaus Award Player of the Year recipient presented by Barbasol. Take us back with a few thoughts about your season and what stands out the most about your senior year at Florida Southern. Were there any moments stick out in your mind?
Just to think back to the season is really incredible. It’s honestly crazy for me to think about all the success that I had and the level of golf that I maintained pretty much the entire year. I just remember the first tournament of the season, we played at Streamsong and we literally got back to school the day before the practice round since we had to evacuate for Hurricane Irma. Obviously, none of us had our best stuff but we still managed a fourth-place finish and I just remember Coach Gordin was not happy at all and he really let us hear it. It kind of got us motivated and helped us really get after it the rest of the season. All in all, though it was a great season as a team and individually and I wouldn’t have traded my time as a Moc for anything else.
Q: You and your younger brother Michael play together for Florida Southern. How did two guys from Southbury, Connecticut end up in Lakeland, Florida? What is it like to compete with your brother on the same college team?
That’s actually kind of a funny story. The head pro of one of the clubs my brother and I grew up playing at was the first individual National Champion in Florida Southern golf history. There was also a guy, Steve Sokol, who is from Connecticut and now coaches college golf just fifteen minutes from Southbury who was also a National Champion. I knew from a young age that I wanted to play golf in college and beyond and I wanted to go to Florida where I could play year-round. Knowing those guys led me to FSC and I had a great opportunity. My brother wanted the same things as me and it just worked out really well for us.
Q: Your final college experience was in Columbus, Ohio at the Jack Nicklaus Awards presented by Barbasol. Having been a finalist twice previously, talk about your experience there and what it means to you to be named the 2018 Jack Nicklaus Award recipient.
It was incredible to be named the player of the year. Any time you receive an award named after one of the greats in golf history it is truly an honor. Having been named a finalist twice before, I really wanted to win the award this year. Even going into the National Championship, I thought there may be cases where I wouldn’t win the award so I knew I had to play well to take care of that. It was awesome to be in Columbus for the Memorial and to be presented the award from Mr. Nicklaus himself. Scioto Country Club was awesome too. I really enjoyed spending time with the other award winners. It is truly an experience I will never forget.
Q: As you look at the Jack Nicklaus Award Trophy and names of past recipients, considering some of their professional accomplishments, share with us your thoughts as you begin the next part of your golf career.
It’s crazy to think that my accomplishments in college place me in the same conversation as some of those guys. It just gives me confidence going forward into the pros that I can have a career as good or better than some of the greats that have played the game.
Q: Talking about your future professional career, let’s talk about the Barbasol Shootout which the Jack Nicklaus Award winners play over one round while in Columbus. When did you find out that Barbasol hosts the 18-hole shootout at Scioto Country Club with the winner earning an exemption into the Barbasol Championship? You shot 67 to win by three shots over your fellow Jack Nicklaus Award winners- take us through your round, was there any one shot you remember from the round that was key?
I knew all year about the shootout and the exemption into the Barbasol Championship. Mostly because my teammate, John Coultas, won it our sophomore year. Being a senior this past year and having been a finalist twice before I really wanted to win the award to jump start my pro career.
I was playing steady the front nine at Scioto but I missed a couple opportunities early and just really didn’t have anything going. On 7 I made a nice 25-footer for birdie and then good pars on 8 and 9. As we made the turn, I birdied 3 in a row from 10-12 to jump into the lead. Anything can happen out there and Scioto has some tough holes. On 14, which is a 250-yard par 3, I hit the green to about fifteen feet and walked out of there with par and hole 15 I short sided myself but made a fifteen-foot par save that really took a toll on my opponents. I made a birdie on 16 to take a 4- shot lead to 18 where I was able to close it out.
Q: What was it like knowing that if you won, you would be playing in the Barbasol Championship in your first professional start?
I honestly wasn’t really thinking about it on the course. Obviously before the round I knew what was at stake and was excited for the opportunity and then after the round it was cool to have my family there and celebrate! It’s just really amazing what Barbasol does for us in giving us this opportunity and I’ll never forget where I got my start.
Q: With your first PGA Tour start this week at the Barbasol Championship, talk about what it will be like walking inside the ropes competing against some of the best players in the world. Have you thought about that first tee shot yet?
It’s going to be awesome. I’m really just excited for the experience and I’m sure I’ll learn a ton about pro golf. I’m sure there will be some nerves but I just have to try and remember it’s the same game I’ve been playing all my life, just a new set of opponents on new courses.
Q: Rumor has it you have secured a pretty good friend as your caddy for next week. Tell us a little about him and why it will be such a special week for the two of you.
Lee (White) (current Florida Southern head men’s golf coach) has been around me and my game dating back to my freshman year at FSC. I’m looking forward to having someone that knows my game really well, is knowledgeable about the game in his own right, and that I have a good relationship with! It’ll be nice to have that trust with him the whole way around that I may not have had otherwise.
Q: Finally, most junior golfers grow up dreaming about winning a big tournament, playing in the Masters, making that final putt to beat a Palmer, Woods, or Nicklaus. You have accomplished much in your young golf career, has it sunk in yet what lies ahead and how your dreams are coming true?
It hasn’t really sunk in yet to be honest. I know that I’m playing in a tour event and that’s what I have been working towards my whole life. I don’t think it will really sink in until that first tee shot Thursday, with the crowds and everything. That’s when it’ll really hit me and I’m just going to take it all in and go out and play some good golf.
In celebration of the Barbasol Championship, Barbasol is offering $20 off your next tee time when you join the new Barbasol Shave Club. Click here to learn more.
Barbasol has been a tournament sponsor of the PGA since 2015. Each year their marquee tournament, the Barbasol Championship, features some of the best golfers in the world.
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