Jake Knapp bets on himself, achieves PGA TOUR dream
4 Min Read
Clinches 2024 PGA TOUR card via top 30 on Korn Ferry Tour Points List
Written by Adam Stanley @adam_stanley
Working as a bouncer at a nightclub, navigating the late-night cadence is easy enough. When the lights go on, it’s time to go home.
After a fifth-place result at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship Jake Knapp – who worked that very job (at a place ironically called The Country Club, in fact) after failing to get through Q-School – will now have the lights of the PGA TOUR shining. It’s not a place he’s ever been. But he definitely doesn’t mind calling it his new home.
“There are 156 guys (in a field) every week, and 155 guys lose every week. You have to celebrate things like this. This was the end goal,” Knapp said about earning a PGA TOUR card for the first time. “For the rest of my life I get to say, ‘Yeah, I played on TOUR.’
“There are very few people who can say that in this sport, so it’s a pretty cool thing to say to yourself.”
Knapp entered the year with four guaranteed starts on the Korn Ferry Tour, but he skipped the first event of the season to stay with his brother as he and his wife were primed to welcome their first child. Knapp’s scheduling choice worked out just fine, however, as he missed just one cut in the first nine events of his year and notched four top-10 finishes.
He laughs a little now about that hot start, however. Once he surpassed 800 points in early August, he began to receive congratulatory messages. He wasn’t sure why.
“I could have missed every cut from there on out and missed by TOUR card by a few points. (The start) actually helped me re-focus and I truly tried to stay in it every single week. I tried not to get too ahead of myself,” Knapp said. “It’s really easy to have a good day and not finish well and you go from fifth to 17th and your points plummet.
“I tried to stay in the moment as best I could and go out and execute.”
Knapp has added two top-15 finishes in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals to remove any doubts regarding his status as a 2024 PGA TOUR member. He has notched nine top-10s this season, tied with Alejandro Tosti for most on Tour.
To be sure, Knapp knew where he stood – both this week in Ohio and on the year overall.
“I’ve tried not to think about (the Points List) necessarily but … I’m not one of those guys who doesn’t look at leaderboards or doesn’t look at the Points List. I like to know. I knew where I stood all year,” Knapp said.
Knapp won twice on PGA TOUR Canada in 2019 (plus a runner-up and third-place showing) to earn Korn Ferry Tour membership for the first time. He missed 20 cuts in 36 tournaments in the combined 2020-21 season, however, and returned to Canada. He found his game again there, winning again and notching four top-10s in 10 events. You don’t love to go backwards in this game, but Knapp said earlier in 2023 that the backtrack was good for him. He retraced his steps. He proved to himself that he was good enough. Again.
Knapp says the maturation over the last 18 months or so has been an important key for him to unlock #TOURBound status for the first time.
“I’m more disciplined. I’m doing things the right way,” Knapp said. “I don’t know how long I’ll be able to play professional golf, so I just don’t want to take it for granted. I want to squeeze every last drop out of my game and my potential.”
Knapp describes his status as a soon-to-be PGA TOUR member as “pretty surreal.” He calls himself a journeyman. At 29, he’s not old, certainly. But he’s not a dime-a-dozen guy who emerges off PGA TOUR University and makes a big splash, or someone like Justin Thomas or Jordan Spieth or Jon Rahm who parlays just a few sponsor invites into a TOUR card. Knapp has never received a traditional sponsor exemption in his life, in fact. (He has played in two RBC Canadian Opens, earning exemptions based on PGA TOUR Canada merit, and he Monday qualified for the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open. He also qualified for the 2015 U.S. Open.)
“I turned pro at 22 and people were like, ‘Why aren’t you out there? You shoot 62 at your home course. Why aren’t you playing on TOUR?’” Knapp said with a smile. “Well, there are thousands of people in the world who can do that. It’s been a journey, obviously, a lot of ups and downs but I knew this was all I ever wanted. And I wasn’t going to pack it in any time soon.”
Knapp had reasons to, however. After his first three years chasing the dream, he didn’t have much to show for it. His initial contracts were up. He fell off the Korn Ferry Tour without even sniffing his card. In nightclub parlance, the DJ was on his final few songs.
“But I was just proud of myself to have the patience and stick through it. I kept believing in myself,” Knapp said. “No one is harder on me than me. But it’s all paid off.”
Paid the tab. Lights are on.
Time to go to home.
A new home. The PGA TOUR.