Player's Take: Kyle Mueller
September 11, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Kyle Mueller is one to watch at the Canada Life Championship. (Courtesy of Allen McEchern)
It’s been a tale of two seasons for Kyle Mueller in his debut year on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada.
Mueller, who finished up a celebrated career at the University of Michigan in 2018, missed his first four cuts in a row as a professional. Since then, however, he’s been playing steady golf, notching three top 10s and is ever-so-close to earning a spot on the top 10 on the Order of Merit.
The 23-year-old was the runner up at the Mackenzie Investments Open, and that result moved him to 14th on the money list – a mere $4,000 behind that magical 10 spot.
Prior to teeing it up at the season finale, the Canada Life Championship, Mueller spent a few minutes with PGA TOUR Digital talking about his hometown, playing the U.S. Open at Oakmont, his choice in college, and the memory of his mother – who tragically passed away in 2016, en route to watch him at a golf tournament.
It was the worse golf I’ve played in a long time at the beginning of the season, which came at a pretty bad time. I’ve gone through some minor swing changes with my coach, Patrick Wilkes-Krier, who was my assistant at Michigan. They were long-term changes but they slowly crept into my golf swing. A lot of it now is that I’ve just been playing smarter and more conservative. I did that pretty well in college but I got away from that. You’re not hitting it too well so you start pushing and making silly mistakes. I was really avoiding some of those dumb, silly mistakes and trying to hit fairways and greens and not firing at every single pin.
It hasn’t been as easy as I thought it’d be out here. I thought I would come out and have some immediate success – which was pretty naïve of me I guess. Like plenty of young guys, that’s what they expect coming out (of college), your expectations are pretty high. But that wasn’t quite the case.
The first half of the year… it really was some of the worst golf I’ve played in a long time. I wasn’t quite used to that. It’s never fun missing cuts – but missing the first five out of six, and a couple of them by just one shot, it wasn’t fun. It was humbling to say the least, but it definitely motivates you.
Seeing the country has been fantastic. It’s just gorgeous the first couple of events, out West, and it was a lot to take in. I think that’s where, being a young professional, it would take me a couple of events to get used to. The first couple of events are go, go, go. You’re playing 18 holes every day, plus practice rounds and a tournament – it was just a lot of golf. I was trying to figure out what worked best for me and I definitely tuned it back. After I started playing well I started to just play 18 holes as a practice round, instead of 36 or maybe even 45 holes. I really turned it back. Rest out here is big. It’s a short season, but the events are back-to-back, so it’s a busy short season. Trying to manage and rest your body and your mind and getting prepared to go every week is important.
I don’t reflect back on (the U.S. Open) too much, but one takeaway from that week I brought to the Mackenzie Tour was that the guys out here are really freaking good. They are just as good out here as they are out there. There are going to be guys who come from here and will play on the PGA TOUR and play in majors and win majors. That being said, I know I’m one of those guys and I can do it. It’s important to remind yourself, that, although you’re going to have to go low every week, you are playing really good golf. The guys out here are just good.
I’m from Watkinsville, Georgia, which is about five minutes from Athens. I live about 10 minutes from the University of Georgia’s campus. We had season tickets to all the Georgia games, I grew up a huge Bulldog fan… and then I went off to Michigan.
A lot of my decision to go to Michigan started with the coaches. I had Chris Whitten and Nick Pumford who recruited me. Nick ended up leaving to go to Oakland and we got Patrick (Wilkes-Krier) so it came down to the coaching, the guys on the team, and a great university with great education. I wanted to go to a bigger school and I wasn’t really recruited anywhere down south. I explored my options and Michigan seemed to be the best fit for me.
It was awesome going to (football) games at The Big House. They struggled a little when I first got there and got a little bit better, but they’re struggling again now. But the best sporting event while I was there was Michigan basketball. Going into my senior year of high school, they made it into the championship game, and then my senior year of college they made it to the championship again. That was a ton of fun on campus.
Every kid has professional aspirations, but maybe being young and naïve – I wasn’t very good at golf in high school. But it’s the progression of getting better. I did that in college. My senior year I was like, “I’m pretty good at this. I’ve had a good career. Why not give it a go and compete against the best?” There wasn’t a specific moment, but by getting better every year and seeing how good I got at senior year, there was a time to decide where to turn pro or not.
A part of me felt a little guilty (after the accident), that being said, my mom loved nothing more than coming to watch me play golf. It was something I know she would have wanted me to continue doing. I think she’d be very proud of me now.
I wish more than anything she was here watching me play professionally. Her last tournament she saw me play was the 2016 U.S. Open, so at least she got to see me play in a major.
I think of her every time I tee it up. She’s still there.