Player’s Take: Kyle Westmoreland
April 23, 2020
By Brendan Stasiewich, PGATOUR.COM
- April 23, 2020
- Kyle Westmoreland's last start on the PGA TOUR came at the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open. (Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada)
With the frame of a linebacker, standing at 6 feet 3 inches and the muscle to match, Kyle Westmoreland is hoping to make heads turn when he makes his Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada debut this summer. In February, he earned membership with a tie-for-sixth finish at the Mackenzie Tour’s Q-School stop at TPC San Antonio. Following his studies at the Air Force Academy, where he played collegiate golf for four years, Westmoreland served for five years in the Financial Management division of the United States Air Force. Upon completing his five-year term of service this past summer, the then 27-year old immediately Monday-qualified into the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship, where he picked up his first top-25 finish as a professional.
PGATOUR.COM managed to catch up with Westmoreland as he continues to hone his game during the COVID-19 pandemic, practicing in Charleston, S.C., while spending time with his wife, Erin.
This has been an interesting time, but it’s actually been similar to the last five and a half years for me, where I wasn’t sure when I was going to get to play next. So, I’m just getting ready for whenever the time comes.
I chose to go to Air Force the last weekend I had to commit to a school to play. It was maybe March or April of my senior year of high school. Growing up, I was a big University of Texas fan, and I was kind of holding out for that. I thought a walk-on spot was a possibility, but after talking to their coach and my parents and talking to the Air Force Academy, I thought that while golf is great, if it might not be the long-term plan then the Air Force was the best option I had academically.
I definitely honed my game throughout college. I was pretty raw coming out of high school. I had a lot of speed with the driver but didn’t always know where [the ball] was going, so I had to learn some course management, and I was a work in progress. I was fortunate to have coaches who helped me get better.
On my recruiting trip, Tom Whitney was there, but our time never overlapped. He is a great player who did great things last year on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, and I think he’s going to tear it up this year. Tom may have been a little bit different because he always wanted to play golf. He likely always knew he was going to play professionally the day he got to the Academy. He’s always been a great player, but he was better earlier in college than I was, to be honest.
Air Force isn’t the usual path to professional golf. The golf course was on the base, and I hit a lot of golf balls. I was fortunate because at the Academy, there aren’t as many great players as some of the bigger schools, so everyone naturally improves. I didn’t even expect to play early on, and then I won a couple times in the second semester of my junior year. That’s when we started to think maybe this was something that could go beyond collegiate golf. Then my senior year I won the Patriot All-American, and we knew it was a go and we made a plan for me to do everything I could to play full time when the time came.
I didn’t know where I stood compared to the big-name college players because I was at a smaller school, so there were guys who were fourth or fifth players on big teams ranked above me even if I thought I could beat them. As a senior, when I got to play in some A-level events like the All-Patriot, I was fortunate enough to beat some of them, and I knew I could hang with those guys and my scoring average was down to below par.
I was fortunate that after school I was stationed in Charleston, S.C., where my wife and I actually live now. When I graduated from the Air Force Academy, in 2014, I came here for three years. I had been working with my coach Allen Terrell (the same coach as Dustin Johnson) in Myrtle Beach my last few years in college, so being here was great back then, and it’s a perfect spot now.
Nearing the end of college, I knew I wanted to play professionally after being stationed, but the policy kind of changes depending on who the policy maker is. It changes every few years, whether I was going to have to wait two years or three years or five years, so I wanted to be as ready as possible and made a plan.
There’s a night range in Charleston I went to a lot, and I spent a lot of lunch breaks at the Air Force base practice green hitting putts. I tried to play a few weeks of every summer.
I thought I’d be stationed for two years, and after two years I thought [my release] would happen after the third year, but I ended up doing five. No harm there at all, I enjoyed all five years and met great people and got great perspective. We just tried to get better at things we could control on the course, being a better iron and wedge player and driving it straighter. That was our goal.
My active duty was up last August, and my personal time I saved up backdated, so I had some time off in July. I went and played the Korn Ferry Tour Monday Qualifier in Utah and got into the Utah Championship. I finished T24 to get into the next event in New York, where I made the cut, which allowed me to go play Omaha the week after.
I ended up playing my first PGA TOUR tournament at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier. I wanted to play in that event for quite a while because of its ties to the military, and it was awesome. The whole environment was very catering to me. I didn’t know what I was going to feel, but I felt a lot of gratitude about being there.
As far as learning experiences go, I learned that I can compete with those guys. I did some things well and some not as well and missed the cut by a couple (of shots). But I was very much in the mix. I learned a bit more about the style of play. Guys out there who might not be hitting it great still find a way to finish around par.
And then when they do hit it well, they’re in the mid 60s. I think that’s the biggest difference between the players on the PGA TOUR; they can make a bad day very playable and are never out of a tournament. Everybody does it their own way, and that’s how I’m going to approach things. I think spending time in the military gave me some added perspective, and that’s something I think can benefit me.
I met my wife here in Charleston, but she is from Florida. When she graduated from the University of Florida, she moved here a year later, and I was stationed here and had been for a year. We just ran into each other through some mutual friends, and we ended up moving to Colorado. We were there for two years.
She works, and I play golf, so the hardest part is being apart. This time has been awesome for us because neither of us is traveling, and we’re spending a lot of time together. I’m probably driving her nuts sometimes, but it’s all right, and we’re looking forward to getting the season going.
My task list gets bigger by the day. I get home from the course, and there’s something new on the list just because we’re always home and things always come up. It’s probably a good thing. It keeps me busy.
Going to the Academy, a bunch of my friends were on the hockey team. Born in Houston, I knew nothing about hockey. I had seen the Dallas Stars play, but I didn’t know the rules. By the time I left school it was my favorite sport to watch. I got on the ice once, and I was just terrible, but I enjoy watching it. I’ve never been to Canada so I’m excited to see it and be a part of it.