The inside story of GQ’s profile on Brooks Koepka
March 10, 2020
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Brooks Koepka was featured in the March issue of GQ magazine. (Courtesy of GQ magazine)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Brooks Koepka’s “boys” told him he looked like Marc Anthony in the pictures. His brother Chase suggested he actually favored lisping bodybuilder Doug Whitmore that Sean Astin played in the romantic comedy, “50 First Dates.”
No matter the lookalike, the white Tom Ford tank top – with a price tag of $990 -- that Koepka wore during the photo shoot accompanying his profile in the March issue of GQ magazine made a statement. And then there’s the physique, the one the story’s author, Dan Riley, describes this way:
His body is football-adjacent, if not football-defined. Weights plus tequila. Gronk-ly. Trout-like. It's in the neck. He said he likes to go to LA Fitness or Planet Fitness when he's on the road, to get motivated by the other meatcicles in there “lifting and grunting and trying to outdo each other.”
Riley spent three days with Koepka in September to research the article, which clocks in at just under 6,000 words. He also attended THE NORTHERN TRUST and The Genesis Invitational, where Riley, a Manhattan Beach, California native, used to work the scoreboard and as a standard bearer when he was a kid.
Riley interviewed Koepka at the golfer’s Jupiter, Florida, home built on a river that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. They sat on the patio near the pool and the private dock where Koepka keeps his boat. Riley saw the four major championship trophies on pedestals by at the base of the stairs.
Riley also watched Koepka hit balls at the Bear Lakes Country Club after discovering The Medalist was closed – even to the player who was No. 1 in the world at the time. The two talked over dinner and several drinks in a private bar one night at a local restaurant partially owned by Michael Jordan.
Preconceived notions began to disappear.
“There was not this sort of precious sense of maintaining the temple of his body as hard as he works out and everything,” Riley says. “There's definitely a looseness there. It's fun hearing stories about his life down there and going out on the boat.
“He loves fishing, he has all his buddies. It just seems loose, and fun in that way.”
Koepka, for his part, seemed to enjoy the experience. He called the GQ photo shoot a “blast” and said he enjoyed doing something so different from his “normal day job.”
“I don't know anybody that doesn't want to be in GQ, let's put it that way,” Koepka said. “I mean, when they approached me, I was excited about it. I thought it would be something cool, something different, show a little different side of me that you don't get to see on the golf course.”
That’s exactly what Riley and GQ were after when the magazine – which focuses on men’s style and culture -- decided to feature Koepka. The last time a golfer was featured to this extent in GQ was in April of 1997 when Tiger Woods was profiled in what Riley calls an “amazingly fortuitous cover” – and we all know what happened that month at Augusta National.
Placement of this article in the March edition was intentional, too. “We wanted to time it for when the season started to heat up a bit,” Riley said.
Who knows, maybe that bodes well for Koepka (now No. 3 in the world) and THE PLAYERS Championship this week.
Riley’s article doesn’t delve deeply into Koepka’s background or tell you how he came to play the game. Instead, it centers on the contradictions of Koepka’s life – the man who loves golf but considers himself something of an outsider. The man who doesn’t like the stuffiness but loves the competition.
“I will say this -- I think that a lot of it is what he puts out is super genuine,” Riley said. “I do think that his frustration felt super real to me. All the stuff about, ‘I have this life that's different from golf. I don't need all the stuff that comes with golf on TOUR, at least, and the social aspect.’ I totally buy all that.
“I think one of the enigmatic qualities is that thing where it's like, if you are so over it with so much of the stuff, how do you turn it on? Is that just some fluke, or are you just so physically talented that you can get this fire in your belly or whatever?”
Riley says the two talked extensively about how Koepka approaches the game from a mental standpoint. In fact, he said there are probably hours of tape on the subject of “machinations that he's doing in a given round that I don't think he gets much credit for. I think he likes it that way.
“There's that line early on where it's like, ‘It may not look like it, but my mind is constantly turning out there,’” Riley said. “I think he rolls with this idea that it's more about the physical strength and talent. I do think he might have one of the more sophisticated brains out there in the way that it's just churning at all times and trying to squeeze for a competitive advantage.
“I do believe that there's something to the fact that he just doesn't turn that up all the way, except for four times a year. There's only a few other golfers, I feel like, who are like that.”
Riley, who has a 7-handicap index, says the key was to satisfy the magazine’s more eclectic readership, as well as the golf fan.
“There's a tradition of a certain kind of athlete profile at GQ that we can sometimes do differently than maybe an ESPN, or a Sports Illustrated, or a sports-specific place where the life off of the field, or out of the arena or whatever is what we're highlighting,” Riley says. “They've been written about, not just basketball players, football players, been written about so much within the context of their sport.
“What's interesting about Brooks is that, for all of his success, he's actually still been fairly under-covered, even in magazines or anything like that. I think that has to do with a combination of general interest in him, but also, I think that he's pretty guarded with that sort of stuff anyway.”
Riley, whose last few articles for GQ have profiled actors Ryan Gosling, Ralph Fiennes and Edward Norton, says he’s gotten a lot of positive reaction to the Koepka story.
“We’re seeing this story perform really well for us in a way that I think we hoped, but we couldn't have guaranteed that,” he said. “There's something happening where people are finding the kept-up part of it extremely interesting. Also, I'm getting a lot of emails, and notes that are like, ‘I haven't seen a piece like this on a golfer in I can't tell you how long.’
“It makes me interested, just as an outsider who doesn't know how it works with their representatives, and agents and stuff. It just does seem like the sort of thing that I wonder if some top players will see the advantage to opening up a bit and showing more of yourself.
“That fuller picture of you as a human, and not just as a champion golfer and all that.”