There's no doubt that the life of a professional golfer can be glamorous. Traveling all over the world. Big money. Private jets.
But for every Phil Mickelson there are plenty of guys like T.J. Vogel.
Vogel is a 31-year-old American who is scratching and clawing to carve out a spot on the PGA Tour. He went to astonishing lengths, literally and metaphorically, to play in this week's The American Express, not wanting the opportunity of a sponsor's exemption to pass him by.
Get this. Vogel played Wednesday in a Korn Ferry Tour event in Exuma in the Bahamas. He finished tied for 19th and won $8,306. On Thursday, he was here in La Quinta, Calif., where he teed off in the first round of this week's PGA Tour event.
He detailed his itinerary:
First he took a 5 p.m. flight from Exuma to Miami, which landed at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Then he had a 7:45 p.m. flight from Miami to LAX, and that connection was dicey.
"I barely made that flight because I had to through Customs, recheck bags and go through security, so it was really close," Vogel said Friday after his second round. "I literally sprinted from the security line to the gate, which at Miami isn't close."
He flew to LAX and drove 10 minutes to his home in Redondo Beach. His head hit the pillow at 12:30 a.m. California time. He slept for four hours, woke up at 4:30 a.m. and drove from Redondo Beach to La Quinta at 5 a.m.
He arrived here around 8 a.m. About 20 hours from when he sank his final putt in the Bahamas the day before.
Why go through all that?
"You've gotta give yourself a chance," Vogel said. "I'm on the Korn Ferry Tour and at the start of the year my status was conditional so I had to go down to the Bahamas to make points. I knew I was going to be in The American Express a couple weeks ago, and I was gearing up for it, but once I ended up getting into the Bahamas event I had to go so I could have a full schedule the rest of the year."
The jet lag and physical toll was one thing to overcome but even worse was the drastic change in conditions. The Bahamas and the Southern California desert are polar opposites.
He actually birdied his first two holes Thursday on the Nicklaus Tournament Course, but faded late in his round and finished with a 2-over 74. He followed that up Friday with a 1-under 71 so he is 1-over through 36 holes, 15 strokes behind the leader Patrick Cantlay.
"Honestly, I felt like I was playing on Mars Thursday is how I would describe it," Vogel said. "Playing in Exuma was heavy ocean air. It's slow. It's wet. Playing here, it's firm and fast and dry. The balls are going further, the balls are bouncing off the greens, greens are faster. The complete opposite, and I really didn't have any time to adjust. I'm struggling, but it is what it is."
Vogel hasn't played in a PGA Tour event since 2018. He played eight times that season, each time earning his way via a Monday qualifier. This marks his 13th career PGA start, and first in the desert. That list of starts includes the 2013 Masters, which he qualified for by winning the U.S. Amateur Publinks while a senior at the University of Florida. He started his college career at USC.
Vogel embodies the term grinder. He was a star at the college level, and has been trying to break through and finally get that full-time PGA Tour card for years. That's why playing in this week's The American Express was so important.
"Obviously, this is where I want to be," Vogel said. "This is where you see where you stand. I might not be able to see exactly where I'm at this week with the travel and not being able to prepare the right way. It's just nice being out here, seeing some people I haven't seen in a while. All of this is an experience, you know? And that's what it's about."
Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: American Express: T.J. Vogel played in the Bahamas on Wednesday, in La Quinta on Thursday