Player's Take: Jake Knapp
May 28, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Jake Knapp won the first event of the season with an 8-under-par 64 in the final round. (Chuck Russell/Mackenzie Tour)
Jake Knapp had a number in mind Sunday at the Canada Life Open.
He beat it by one, and the rest of the field by two.
Knapp, who’s captured medalist honours at Q-School – twice – won the first event of the 2019 Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada season in impressive fashion after being down by five shots going into the final round. An 8-under-par 64 moved him to 21 under for the championship.
He won his first Mackenzie Tour title in the process, and earned a spot in next week’s RBC Canadian Open as well.
Before teeing it up in this week’s Bayview Place DCBank Open presented by Times Colonist he spent a few minutes with PGA TOUR Digital chatting about his win, how much he can bench press, and that time he played golf with Clint Eastwood.
Last week I figured, in the last round, everyone was going to try to go low. But the guys up top, when you have a two, three, five-shot lead you’re not trying to go low, you’re trying to make guys come get you. So I figured the quicker I could get to 18 under that’d be good and put some pressure on. I talked to my coach the night before and he said 20 under would be a good score.
It worked out perfectly. It obviously doesn’t always work out that way, but it did last week.
When it comes to actually hitting the ball around, golf is a small percentage of playing professionally. You want to try to do your best to make it everything but there’s just a lot more than goes into it. There’s the travel, managing your time on the road, being able to manage your time at home as well – I think balancing a little bit of your personal life and your practice and preparation is really important. Before I was putting everything 100 percent into golf. Now I’ve done a better job of allowing myself to take a little downtime or relax a little bit, I’d be 100 percent committed to that. That allows me, when I get to the course, to just put 100 percent into that. Separating the two is really important. Experience in general, playing more tournament golf, allows you to get more comfortable.
Last year was a rough year for me. I really had to take a step back and look at everything and what I was doing and be a little more honest with myself on how I needed to get better. I think that was the most important thing for me, to dig deep and nitpick all those little things to make you a better golfer, and I think I did a good job of that this off-season.
A lot of it was mental for me. It was about staying positive and keep things in perspective – never get too up and never get too down. I wanted to stay in that middle ground so I was always working hard no matter how well or how bad I was playing. You’re never as bad or as good as think. To stay in that middle ground … you’ll always keep on grinding.
On the physical side I had to deal with a lot of injuries the last few years. I had a goal that once I got healthy – I hurt my foot right before Q-School this year, so I didn’t get to do Web.com Tour Q-School and I was devastated about that. Four months ago I was still on crutches and wasn’t sure what my plan was going to be for this year – I could bounce back and come back and play solid golf. I’ve done that the last couple months, really, and that’s meant a lot to me and my family and my team back home. They’ve put in a lot of work the last three months to get ready.
The most I’ve ever put on a bar (to bench press) is 245. I’ve never done above that. I’m not quite at Brooks Koepka’s level (laughs). Working out has been a passion for a long time.
The hair thing just happened. I’ve kind of gone through the long-then-short phase where I’d grow it out until I get sick of it then chop it all off. My brother got married this time last year, so I cut it short and got it cleaned up. I was letting it grow a little bit, but I hurt my foot so since I was sidelined for three months or so and I didn’t cut my hair the entire time. It was getting a little long and I thought, well ‘I might as well let it go.’ Then I won Q-School, so I thought it could be like my playoff beard. I can’t cut it now!
I play a decent amount of golf with a few hockey players back home. I play with Luca Sbisa, he’s on the Islanders, and with Brendan Lemieux who is on the Rangers now and I feel like it ties me into those guys. It gives me the hockey look and helps me blend in with them and make me feel like a real athlete (laughs).
We were playing and hanging out the entire week before I came up (to Canada). It was a good time. I think it helped me. The day before I left, on the Saturday, we went out and had a relaxing day and (Brendan) was like, ‘It’s really interesting: you’re drinking some beer and looking relaxed.’ For me, the work for these tournaments is done months and months ago. It’s not like a test you can cram for the night before and hope for the best. You do your work months in advance in preparation for these weeks. I figured that was a good time to relax and a bit then let it all happen.
I haven’t gone out to skate with them yet. We’ll probably do that later, especially since my foot is still not the best. I’m not pushing it too soon. I did go skating last year. I got skates from my host family I was staying with and they let me go skate on the ice and play some hockey by myself. That was amazing.
Mid-way through high school, compared to the other sports I played, golf was another level. I could compete really well in soccer; I really thought I would play soccer for a long time. Basketball I was pretty good at but I was never that tall so I decided to stop doing that after my freshman year. I chose basketball over baseball earlier. Once I got into high school and started playing in more national events, and playing pretty well, I figured I should stick with (golf). Getting letters to go to different places for college, that makes it a little more obvious. In high school I got fully committed to (golf) and my parents were fully committed to it. They never pushed me in any direction they just let me make the decision on my own and they were all in, no matter what I decided.
I had the option to go wherever I wanted in the country (for college) and I was pretty lucky. I narrowed it down between UCLA, USC, Oregon and maybe Washington State or ASU. There were a few schools. A good friend of mine, Travis Johnson, went to UCLA, and I always looked up to him as a kid. UCLA always kept a special place in my heart. I loved the campus. I wanted to try to be on a winning team. I felt like that was a team that could really do it. Unfortunately we never won the national championship, that’s a tough thing to do. Also, making that decision as a sophomore in high school, it’s tough to make yourself want to move across the country. I ended up staying close to home and I made the right decision. I loved my college years and I loved my college teammates, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to spend four years with.
(Playing golf with Clint Eastwood) was a dream come true but also a little bit of a shock. Last minute at the Folds of Honor event they needed someone and I said I would have loved to do it. It was a couple months after I turned pro. They’re like, ‘Don’t worry we’ve got you in a pretty special group, you’re going to have a great time.’ We got there and I found out I was playing with Clint Eastwood and I was like, ‘Whoa. Holy cow.’ That was a bit of a shock. He was the nicest guy in the world. Very down to the earth. Talked to him the whole day. Rode in the cart with him most of the day. He was just a really nice, funny guy. For someone as successful as him, to be a person like that really speaks a lot about his character.