There were times when Vince Covello doubted the moment would ever come, doubted whether all those years of playing golf on various tours in towns all over the United States and Canada would lead to his dream: competing on the sport’s major stage.
However, after 15 years as a professional, the 36-year-old Delaware County native finally realized his dream, being awarded his PGA Tour card for the 2019-20 season during a ceremony Sunday at the Portland Open, where the top 25 players on the Korn Ferry Tour points list advanced.
Speaking Tuesday night by phone from Columbus, Ohio, the first stop of the three-week Korn Ferry Tour (formerly Nike Tour and Web.com Tour) playoffs, Covello said the entire experience was “just starting to sink in.”
“Sunday was a special moment that I feel really privileged to be a part of,” he said. “I’ve been on that 18th green watching my buddies graduate in the past, and now it was my time to be there. It was really something special to be part of. I feel blessed and lucky to be there and proud to be there, too.
“It’s such a select few people to get the chance to play the PGA Tour. I had a buddy of mine, [former tour player] Rocco Mediate, text me: ‘You’re in rare air now, kid!’ It really is.”
Covello finished 20th on the points list, fueled by his first career tour victory last March in a playoff at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open plus two top-10 finishes: a tie for fourth in May at the Evans Scholars Invitational and a tie for 10th at June’s Wichita Open, where he shot 30 on his last nine holes.
“It’s been a long road,” he said, “filled with lots of ups and downs and enough good moments in there to keep me believing that I was capable of it. There certainly were enough bumps in the road, too, to wonder whether it was ever going to happen, or whether it was time to get another job or try something different.
“But somewhere inside, I kept believing. I knew I was a good golfer, and I knew if I just handled myself in the right ways and just get a little bit better and controlling myself and being diligent with my work ethic, I thought it would eventually pay off. And sure enough, here’s the day.”
Covello’s promotion was met with an enthusiastic response throughout Delaware County. He was born in Springfield and lived in Havertown before his family moved to Florida when he was 17. He played junior golf at Llanerch Country Club, where he has heard recently from members and childhood friends.
Three of his five siblings live in the area, including an older brother, Tom, from Bryn Mawr.
“It was great, the feeling of euphoria, the tears of joy in his voice,” Tom Covello said of his Sunday conversation with his brother. “To have survived all these years, he kept his career going. Honestly, it would be hard to imagine him going to the PGA Tour right now at age 36, turning 37 [in November]. But here he is, and it’s just an emotional, special thing.”
Tom revisited some of his brother’s close calls — missing the cut for a PGA Tour card by one stroke in 2013, twice missing the finals of the tour’s qualifying tournament by one, once falling short of a Web.com card — plus his time on Canada’s McKenzie Tour in 2015.
“Obviously, perseverance is the biggest thing,” he said. “These great college players come out every year, and they’re great players. With Vince, all these years it took him to get here, perseverance and hard work are the key.”
Vince Covello lives in Atlantic Beach, Fla., but his area roots still run deep. He is identified as being from Philadelphia when he is introduced at tour events. He usually wears Phillies or Eagles caps when he plays. He has the week after Labor Day off so he’ll come north and get his friends and Tom together for a fantasy football draft and perhaps see a Phillies game.
“I’m proud of my Philly roots, and I like showing it off,” he said. “There’s a responsibility to the city to give it all I’ve got, to play hard and fight all the way to the end. I think that’s the nature of the city. There’s a bunch of hardworking people up there, and it keeps me true to my roots.”
Now that he has his card, Covello wants to improve his standing on the PGA Tour priority list. In addition to the 25 cards already handed out, the tour will award cards to the top 25 finishers in the Korn Ferry playoffs. Covello can improve his standing, but you “still have to come out and bring it every week,” he said.
The No. 1 players on the points list and in the finals are fully exempt, he said. The other 48 players are placed in a “reshuffle” category that re-ranks them every five weeks depending on how many FedExCup points have been earned.
The PGA Tour’s Fall Series will begin with a five-week stretch of tournaments beginning the week of Sept. 9 at the Greenbrier in West Virginia. Covello will play in every event, he said, “assuming my number is good enough and I get in all five.”
Strengthening his spot on the priority list will be Covello’s focus for the rest of the year. However, the joyful memories of Sunday will last a lifetime.