Vermillion, SD – For most athletes to become good at your sport you must put in time and effort. That’s no different for USD senior golfer Tom Vining.
“It (my life) kind of revolves around golf,” Vining said. “I love to travel but when I travel it’s to play golf.”
He was introduced to game of golf right from the start.
“I was born into it. My aunt played in the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) for a couple of years. My grandpa taught the game. My dad played college golf. Growing up with a couple of brothers that played golf and a sister that played golf, I was drawn to it right away by the family,” Vining said. “Realizing the level some of my family members played it (golf) at, motivated me to achieve things for myself. Getting (introduced to) that at a young age made it fun.”
Tom enjoys golf, in part, because it isn’t like other sports.
“It is a unique game. Golf tournaments are three or four days and it’s not like a typical game where you play for two hours and you’re done,” Vining said. “It’s relaxing those first 18 or 36 holes and then that last set of the tournament is what excites me. That’s why I play, the kind of feeling it gives you of being in the thick of things.”
The typical day for him changes in the summertime.
“The summer is my favorite time (of year) because you go out to the course when the sun rises and don’t leave until it sets,” said Tom Vining. “I love doing that.”
He is at his best when he is calm and relies on what he knows.
“I’ve putted a lot better in the last year. The key for me is to not overthink it. I like to be quick on the green,” Vining said. “Some people have books and different green reading techniques. I just try to use my feel and be instinctive about it. There’s no crazy thing that I do, I just use my instinct and try to be relaxed.”
Tom is finishing up his senior year at USD but still finding a balance between golf, school, family, and friends, isn’t easy.
“It’s definitely hard. I find myself putting my identity in golf. If I don’t play well, that’s kind of who I am. Defining yourself by a bad round or even a good round. That drives you nuts,” Vining said. “When you play well and you define yourself as playing well, you want to keep doing it so you can continue to have that feeling. When you play bad, you define yourself by playing that way. Just realizing that my identity is found in Christ is what really matters.”
He has learned to not sweat the small stuff as he’s grown older.
“As a freshman and sophomore in college you’re performance based,” Vining said. “You want to please your coaches, prove yourself to your teammates, and prove to yourself that you’re good enough. But as you get older, you realize that’s not even close to the biggest thing that matters in life.”
Both on and off the course, he has been impactful on many people. From teammates, to family, and friends, they all agree that Vining is both “humble” and “caring.”
“He’s always thinking about others before himself. He has been a huge influence on me since I came here and I always go to him for help and guidance,” said USD teammate Jacob Michel. “He has been a great leader for our team the years I have been here. You can just see how hard he works and how humble he is when the hard work pays off.”
Tom’s fiancé, Taylor Brown, has seen similar qualities in him.
“He is extremely humble, always putting his team first.” Brown said. “As well as doing what is in the best interest of others in all aspects of life.”
Despite being humble, Tom enjoys competing more than just a regular day on the golf course.
“If I could play in tournaments every week, I would. It’s fun to just go play but you can’t compare it at all,” Vining said. “You can try and simulate the feeling of being in a golf tournament but you can’t. You have to deal with tension, being uncomfortable, nerves and all those different things. When you overcome them, it’s just a great feeling that you don’t usually get when you’re just playing. I love competition.”
He knows he can only worry about his own golf score though.
“My goal isn’t to beat other players, my goal is to just be my best. You can’t control what other guys are doing, so there’s no reason to compare yourself,” Vining said. “Your best golf will take care of itself.”
The relationship between a coach and a player usually doesn’t go beyond the sport but in Tom’s case it started before golf. His coach, John Vining, also happens to be his brother. The relationship, between the two, converges in an unusual way on the golf course.
“They intersect in that I am really comfortable with telling him how I feel. There’s not that awkwardness of maybe I can ask him this or tell him that. I can tell him how I feel in a particular moment, which can be good and bad,” Tom Vining said. “You want to treat him as a coach and that’s where it’s difficult sometimes. You have to have a level of respect, a high level of respect, for him.”
Tom’s brother John said there was definitely a challenge at first.
“There was definitely a learning curve for both of us when I became his Head Coach. In the past years I was the assistant. I felt that as the assistant it was easier to fall into that “brother” role for him and even the other guys,” John Vining said. “Being his head coach has presented new learning opportunities for us. I really feel we have hit a nice stride this spring in terms of (me) being his head coach and his brother.”
Tom and John are seven years apart in age but they still have a strong relationship on and off the course.
“Our relationship is good. I would say most of our conversations consist of bigger “life” things,” John Vining said. “Sometimes he is looking for my advice, and other times he just wants to tell me what’s going on. I appreciate that. That has always been the majority of our relationship.”
Tom and John both want the same thing, success.
“I think knowing that he is my brother and he wants what’s best for me is what allows me to respect him,” Tom Vining said. “He doesn’t treat me any different from any other guy, that allows me to see him as a coach at this particular point in our lives.”
John says the positives outweigh the negatives.
“The trick is to make it a positive. I think it is a positive. Since he is my brother, he does not hesitate to be honest with me. That is really important,” John Vining said. “I want my guys to have open communication with me and I think that it a little easier for Tommy because we are brothers. Overall, I believe I treat Tommy just like any other player. There is some extra sentiment in our journey together and I appreciate that and enjoy it.”
Tom’s career in golf will not end after the college season.
“I hit a spot in the last semester where I didn’t know if it (going pro) was the right thing for me but I always wanted to do it,” Tom Vining said. “I’ve wanted to do it since I picked up a club. It excites me because it’s my dream and it’s a career I want to be long, and not short lived. It’s different from other professions and it’s a profession that I love and have a passion for.”
His brother says he has the ability to do it.
“He can hit the ball as well as anyone. He works extremely hard. Once he is done with school and can focus solely on golf, his game is going to go to another level,” John Vining said. “The bottom line for Tommy is that whatever he does, he is going to be successful he wants to be all in on whatever he is doing.”
Though it will be a challenge, Tom’s teammate, Jacob Michel, believes in him.
“I think it will be tough because there is so much competition. But I think he will do really well because he is so hardworking,” Michel said. “He is one of the most consistent golfers I have ever seen and I think that will help him a ton on the pro circuit.”
John Vining concurred.
“Professional golf is a grind and takes incredible patience,” said John Vining. “My biggest hope is that he gives it a long run but that is another thing that will be up to him and his desires.”
Tom is also excited for his future with his fiancé Taylor.
“Taylor and I have been engaged for a few months now and (our) wedding is May 30, 2020! It’s been really exciting planning and preparing for that day and the life of marriage,” said Vining. “We have grown a lot since I asked her to marry me and I’m excited to continue to grow.”
Despite the busyness of golf and school, they have been able to spend plenty of time together.
“We do a good job of balancing our relationship. We always find time to be together and we also know that school and athletics take a lot of hard work,” said Vining. “But yes she will come out to the course sometimes-she hadn’t played golf until she started dating me but I think she enjoys it. And she enjoys watching me and supports me 100%. I will also go run with her at times, I’m not fast and can’t run as far as her but I do my best.”
Brown didn’t start playing golf too long ago.
“She hadn’t played golf until she started dating me, but I think she enjoys it,” said Vining.
Although Brown doesn’t know the game of golf well, she still supports Tom.
“I just take the supportive role because I don’t know much about the sport,” Brown said. “But I also provide him with a person to vent to and talk about the good and the bad.”
Even though Tom is excited for his future he is content with where he’s at.
“I’m just excited to still have some opportunities here at (the University of) South Dakota and just want to embrace these next couple months here,” Vining said.