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VanDerLaan Gets Back to Work

VanDerLaan's record-breaking 2018 Connecticut Open win inspired brother Michael to his own Division II Individual Championship.

CSGA (May 30, 2020) The lights of the Korn Ferry Tour have been dark since the conclusion of the El Bosque Mexico Championship in March. When the Covid-19 pandemic essentially shut sports down around the world, the tour was in the midst of a two-week-long break. It was a break John VanDerLaan was not anxious to see extended.

At the time of the stoppage Southbury’s VanDerLaan, in his second year as a professional, had made six consecutive cuts, finishing once in the top-10, and four-times in the top-25. He was No. 16 on the Korn Ferry Tour money list (at the end of the year the top-25 earn their PGA Tour card for the following season).

For VanDerLaan, the Korn Ferry success was a continuation of strong and improving play almost from the time he won the Connecticut Junior in 2012. VanDerLaan captured the 2018 Connecticut Open with a record-shattering 16-under par at New Haven Country Club. That win, coupled with an appearance earlier in the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship where he made the cut, and before that his Division II Player of the Year Award at Florida Southern, placed his career on a much larger map. It was a long way from the time when his father, having won a member guest prize at that same New Haven Country Club, used the credit to give his two-year old son his first set of junior clubs. In Connecticut’s cold winters, VanDerLaan trained in the basement and later at Ridgefield’s Golf Performance Center, which he now represents.

As the Korn Ferry Tour prepares to resume June 11 at the Korn Ferry Challenge on the Valley Course of TPC Sawgrass, the CSGA’s Sam Dostaler had a chance to talk with VanDerLaan from his Florida home about how he was spending his quarantine, keeping his game sharp, and his memories of a stellar competitive career in Connecticut.

Speaking about how he has been spending his time during quarantine:

“The first few weeks it was kind of nice because I had been playing so much through the beginning of the year, it was nice to have some time off and not have to keep grinding. [But] I definitely got the itch after a couple of weeks and it was just fortunate that the golf courses stayed open down here [in Florida] so I could keep working on my game.”

Turning pro and the journey:

“I decided really young that [pro golf] was what I wanted to do and my parents were super supportive of me. When I was 12, 13, 14 I was playing golf and baseball and in Connecticut where I went to high school. Those sports are the same season so I had to pick one. I ended up picking golf and my parents saw that I was really serious about it and that I really wanted to play in college and professionally and they fully supported me.”

Reaching the Korn Ferry Tour:“This is the second year that I have had status out there, I had to go to Q-School both times, there are three stages; first stage, second stage, and final stage, basically three separate tournaments, usually around 80 players and 20 or so advance through each stage. If you advance through second stage you get conditional status [on the Korn Ferry Tour] which is what I had last year, which basically guarantees you nothing except that you are a member of the tour. There are benefits that come with that like playing privileges at TPC courses and reduced fees for Monday qualifiers but as far as playing actual tournaments you don’t get anything guaranteed and last year I only played one event.”

Realizing I could play at the highest level:“It might even had been right out of college when I had a great summer before I even had status. My first start at the Barbasol was an opposite-field PGA Tour event, I got in with a sponsorship exemption, I made the cut and ended up finishing right around 30th and then a couple of weeks later went to Connecticut and won the Connecticut Open.”

Winning the 2012 Connecticut Junior Amateur title gave his career a jump start:
“That’s when I got out there a little bit and people started to take notice of who I was as a golfer. I was still pretty young, I had played in the Connecticut Junior a couple of times before, and to that point in my golf career that was the biggest thing that I was playing in. I was friends with a lot of those guys and just wanted to win it really bad, and when I did I knew this is something that I can put on my resume."

Our interview with John VanDerLaan was the latest in our series, 15-Minutes With. To listen to additional interviews click here.

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Founded in 1899, the CSGA is the country's oldest state golf association and, as an Allied Golf Association of the USGA, provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. In addition to administering handicaps for over 40,000 members at 181 member clubs, the CSGA conducts more than 85 days of competition throughout the year for golfers of all ages, genders, and skill levels. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the CSGA supports a variety of golf organizations within Connecticut, including the Connecticut Association of Golf Course Superintendents, Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, Connecticut Section PGA, Connecticut Women’s Golf Association, CSGA Scholarship Fund in honor of Widdy Neale, LPGA-Amateur Golf Association, Southern New England Women’s Golf Association, and The First Tee of Connecticut.