Jacob Bridgeman swings for fences, achieves PGA TOUR dream
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Written by Adam Stanley @Adam_Stanley
Jacob Bridgeman had to make a decision.
He was 12, just on the cusp of his teenage years and carving out a path for what the next phase of his life would look like. He was highly skilled in baseball and golf, but playing both at the same time of the year had some negative impacts. He’d miss balls low on the field, and he’d be hitting big cuts on the course.
“My dad and mom sat me down and were like, ‘I think we need to either say we’re going to play both and have a lot of fun at both, or we’re going to be really good at one or really good at the other,’” Bridgeman recalls. “’Which one do you want to do?’”
Bridgeman realized he liked playing baseball, but he hated practicing it. He was all in, with all aspects, for golf. There were plenty of other good junior golfers near where he grew up in South Carolina, and they had so much fun practicing and playing together. There was childhood innocence and pure joy with that.
When tournaments came around, it was easy to get competitive – because they were having so much fun otherwise.
“I went full on (with golf),” Bridgeman said, “and I haven’t looked back since.”
There’s certainly no looking back for Bridgeman now. He’s #TOURBound for the first time after making the cut at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, becoming the 12th player to cement a 2024 PGA TOUR card via the top-30 on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List. The remaining 18 cards will be finalized across this weekend and the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance.
Jacob Bridgeman takes early lead at Nationwide Children’s
The Clemson alum has notched 12 top-25 finishes this season, including two fourth-place finishes in his last four starts. It meant a made cut at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship – which he opened in rounds of 65-69 – was plenty to secure his top-30 position.
After Bridgeman made his decision to focus on golf full-time, he progressed between sophomore and junior of high school from being “very mediocre” to being “pretty good.” A switch was flipped. He won lots. The same thing happened when he started at Clemson. He was pretty good in his first season, but the COVID-19 pandemic impacted any momentum he had from that. However, when his collegiate career got back on track, there was absolutely no slowing him down. He notched five victories in his time as a Tiger, including the 2022 ACC Championship (en route to winning ACC Player of the Year). He finished second on the 2022 PGA TOUR University Ranking to earn Korn Ferry Tour status that summer. That initial dip was helpful as he embarked on his first full season as a pro; he recorded six top-20s in his first eight starts of the 2023 season, and he hasn’t looked back.
This season, Bridgeman’s relative inexperience on the pro golf stage hasn’t been a hindrance. Not much has held him back. The steady results have been a product of a complete effort from tee to green – Bridgeman sits 15th in total driving, 17th in greens in regulation, and first in scrambling.
Growing up, Bridgeman took lessons from Tommy Biershenk, who made 147 career Korn Ferry Tour starts and competed on the 2012 PGA TOUR. Biershenk taught Bridgeman more about the golf swing than how to swing – he taught him about misses and tendencies and thoughtfulness. He was his mentor. They’re both from the same area in South Carolina; Bridgeman laughs that there was not a lot of “city life” going around.
“A lot of times people will say, ‘I'm going to go see my swing coach and work, work really hard,’ but for me it was like, ‘I'm going to go see Tommy and hang out with him,’” Bridgeman said. “We had a lot of fun growing up, and still do.”
Bridgeman knows that for all the laughs and easygoing efforts over his college career and into his transition as a pro, there was still plenty of work to do underneath the hood. When it came time to compete against the best in the world, he was sure to dial in.
It’s the goal of everyone on the Korn Ferry Tour, he said, to get to the PGA TOUR. The opportunity to get there is an exciting one.
“I see myself out there (on TOUR) for years to come,” Bridgeman said. “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised – I expected myself, as most competitors do, to make it (to the TOUR) at some point. It’s great that I had the opportunity to do it this year.
“It’s just exciting to be out there competing against the best players in the world and that’s what all of us dream to do to – test ourselves against the best in the world and (the TOUR) is the best place to do it. I’m excited for that.”
Bridgeman landed on golf because he loved all aspects of it. To do it as work, he said, is exactly how he hoped things would unfold in his life at this point, 10 years on from that fateful decision.
“It’s a dream come true,” Bridgeman said of earning a PGA TOUR card. “I’ve loved sports my whole life and I love golf the most. To be able to do something that I love for work … it doesn’t really seem like work. I would do it for free.”
A big decision that was absolutely the right one.
Clemson’s Jacob Bridgeman earns fully exempt PGA TOUR Canada status for 2022 season