After long wait, Vincent ready to take aim at Olympic glory
Scott Vincent missed making his native Zimbabwe’s national squad in 2016, but now the Virginia Tech alum can’t wait to live a lifelong dream.
Five years ago, Scott Vincent ’15 painfully found himself on the outside looking in when it came to earning a trip to compete at the Summer Olympics held in Rio de Janeiro.
Vincent was next in line to secure a spot and represent his native Zimbabwe in Rio, missing on what had been a lifelong goal. To put such agony in golf terms, the 29-year-old needed to make a six-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to make the squad — and he left the putt a single revolution short.
Since then, Vincent has poured his time, energy, efforts, and passion into earning an Olympic berth for Zimbabwe, and after five long, agonizing years, his wait has come to an end. He finally gets to chase Olympic glory, this time in Tokyo.
By virtue of his spot in the Official World Golf Rankings — currently No. 258 — Vincent received an invitation from his country’s Olympic committee, making him the first Virginia Tech golfer, past or present, to compete at an Olympic Games.
Vincent joins 60 other mens golfers from around the world competing for a medal in Tokyo. The men’s golf competition begins Wednesday at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, just north of Tokyo.
“This [competing in the Olympics] was more in the back of my mind when I missed out in 2016 for Rio,” Vincent said. “I was actually the very next guy that would have gotten in … I was pretty upset about that one.
“Ever since then, this was on the radar. I really wanted to try and qualify, and as we got closer to the Tokyo Olympics, it was certainly a goal for last year and then for this year with them moving it over [to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic]. It’s nice to be on this side of it where you are qualified and get to go.”
It’s also nice to share the experience with a special person. The Japanese government decided to hold the events without spectators because of a rise in COVID-19 infections in that country, so the loved ones of most of the athletes competing must watch on television from their respective home countries.
But Vincent gets to share his dream experience with his wife because she serves as his caddie.
Vincent met Kelsey Loupee, then a former Virginia Tech women’s soccer player, when the two attended Virginia Tech. They were married in 2017 and decided to live in her hometown of Denver. Not wanting to be apart for extended periods of time while Scott pursued a professional golf career by playing on tours all over the world, they agreed on her being his caddie for a few events just to see if such an arrangement would work.
It wound up working quite well. In one of his first tournaments with Kelsey as his caddie — the Indonesian Masters — Scott finished third, and the pair have traveled all over the world ever since.
“It’s been amazing,” Vincent said. “Up front, when there is a lot of learning to be done, that was probably the hardest, but the coolest part about it now is that she’s better than most caddies in my opinion. She knows exactly how I like to operate, and she can tell when things aren’t quite going right and what to say.
“That’s cool, and just the fact that I’m not missing home and wanting to go back to see her. She’s right there. We can just carry on traveling and do whatever it is we want to do. That part of it has been an absolute blessing to me.”
Not long after leaving Virginia Tech, Vincent earned his playing card on the Asian Tour, and he recorded three runner-up finishes there in 2018. He has played in a mix of tournaments on the European Tour and Mackenzie Tour in Canada as well.
His recent focus has been on the Japan Tour, where he competed for nearly all of 2019 and the entirety of this year. In June 2019, he notched his first win as a professional, leading the field at the Landic Challenge in Fukuoka, Japan, from start to finish. His closing 69 left him at 16-under-par for the tournament and gave him a five-stroke win.
The Japan Tour features better prize money, and more importantly, better opportunities to improve his world golf ranking. He hopes that adds up to opportunities toward his ultimate goal of playing on the PGA Tour.
“He’s probably one shot a tournament, maybe two shots a tournament, from being on the PGA Tour,” Virginia Tech men’s golf Coach Brian Sharp said. “There’s a very fine line when you get to the level he’s at.”
Sharp was an assistant to Jay Hardwick, who retired in 2018, when Vincent played at Virginia Tech from 2011-15. He cites Vincent’s ability not to waste shots around the green as his biggest strength. His numbers indicate that, too, as Vincent’s worst round this season is 75, which has happened just twice in 28 rounds.
Though Vincent hasn’t played the course at Kasumigaseki Country Club, he understands course conditions, the wind, and other weather factors in Japan. That might give him an insider’s advantage in these Olympics.
“I hope so,” Vincent said. “That was kind of part of the decision to go and try Japan. I had a good friend over there, and he said it was amazing and I should come and try. I did, and I loved it.
“Also, with the Olympics, it was supposed to be there. I thought, ‘Man, this is perfect. Get used to the style of golf over here, and hopefully have the opportunity to play.’ Who knows? I’m hoping that it’s going to be a big advantage.”
Sharp hopes that Vincent takes the time to enjoy the experience and not focus solely on golf. He and Vincent connected through Zoom approximately a week before Vincent left for Tokyo, and he shared that message.
“Obviously all of us would love to participate in the Olympics and get a medal,” Sharp said. “But who knows how many times you’ll ever get to do this? Enjoy it as much as you can. Having Kelsey right there by his side the whole time will be an amazing experience. That would be my only advice to him — just enjoy the whole experience while he’s there. Knowing Scott, he’ll be working hard on his golf, but I hope he enjoys the other things, too.”
No matter the continent in which he plays, Vincent often reminds himself of Virginia Tech’s positive impact on him. He left with a degree in finance from the Pamplin College of Business and earned first-team All-America honors, becoming the first first-team All-American in program history.
If Vincent plays well in Tokyo, he will credit the university for its role in shaping him as a person and a professional athlete.
“College was a huge reason why I continued to take the next steps. I’m not just saying that. I mean it,” he said. “We played against some of the best guys in the world even to this day. I played with [PGA Tour stars] Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth. I got to play in the same group as them and saw how they operated and saw what made them good. The fact that we played such a good schedule when I was there certainly encouraged me to pursue what I was trying to do with golf.
“Big credit to VT. My time there was excellent. I loved it.”
One hopes his time in Tokyo resembles his time at Virginia Tech. He is not the favorite to win, but the sport of golf doesn’t discriminate in favor of great athletes, or size, or age, so maybe a medal could be in his future.
If that happens, then his five-year wait will have been worth it.
— Written by Jimmy Robertson