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Former nightclub bouncer Jake Knapp seeks PGA TOUR ID

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Former nightclub bouncer Jake Knapp seeks PGA TOUR ID

Earned back Korn Ferry Tour status via 2022 PGA TOUR Canada

    After failing to get through Q-School and wondering what was going to be next, Jake Knapp got a job at The Country Club.

    Appropriate for a golfer, right?

    But this wasn’t the historic venue at Brookline, or even a golf course at all – it was a restaurant.

    Knapp, trending towards his first PGA TOUR card at No. 21 on the Korn Ferry Tour's season-long standings, worked security at The Country Club, a fine-dining establishment in Costa Mesa, California that turns into a nightclub with bottle service at tables, a dance floor, a DJ – the whole thing.

    Knapp has always been a gym guy. He didn’t want a job in golf, so he focused on fitness and strived to keep the rowdy ruckus to a minimum, working until 2 or 3 a.m. so then he could have time during the day to still practice golf.

    “It’s ironic,” Knapp said with a laugh about the name of the restaurant he worked at. Even when he wanted to avoid golf, he couldn’t quite do it. “I knew it was a nicer restaurant and I knew that they did bottle service on weekends … but I didn’t know it got as crazy as it did.”

    Knapp had previously visited The Country Club, which opened in 2017, and surmised he could make some extra money in tips.

    So it goes, right? Golfers – especially those with a certain ingrained skill set – often do anything to keep the dream alive. Now with 30 TOUR cards available via the Korn Ferry Tour's season-long points race, he is better positioned than ever to see that dream through.

    Knapp has all the tools. He won twice on PGA TOUR Canada in 2019 in addition to a runner-up and a third-place showing, earning Korn Ferry Tour membership in the process. The 2020-21 combined season wasn’t his best, he admits, missing 20 cuts in 36 tournaments. He returned to PGA TOUR Canada for 2022 and won again, one of four top-10 finishes in just 10 tournaments.

    “I would have loved to not go backwards (to PGA TOUR Canada) but if anything, those first couple years (on the Korn Ferry Tour), especially through COVID where it was two seasons, it was just really humbling playing as poorly as I did and having to go back and retrace my steps and prove, you know, you’re good enough to do this and good enough to compete at the next level,” Knapp said.

    “Honestly I worked my butt off last year and this offseason (as well).”

    Knapp had four guaranteed starts on the Korn Ferry Tour to begin this year but skipped the first event to stay with his brother and his wife, who were set to welcome their first child. Knapp wanted to be there. It all turned out OK, however, as he went T17-T24-T7 in the three events following. That improved his position at the first reshuffle, meaning strong status for the balance of the year.

    He's made the most of that hot start, with five more top-10 finishes on the year to this point. He was in the final group Sunday at the Compliance Solutions Championship.

    “I didn’t want to keep squeaking in these top-10s on Sunday, I really wanted to feel like I played well enough Thursday through Saturday to give myself an opportunity to win an event. I was excited to have that opportunity in the last group,” Knapp said of his effort a few weeks ago.

    At the beginning of the year, Knapp admitted, his main goal was just to keep his Korn Ferry Tour status. He wanted to have a “stress-free” year in 2024 by doing just that, but the goals shifted after his hot start.

    “The goal is 100% to get my PGA TOUR card,” Knapp said. “But I’m trying not to think about it as the (end of the season) gets closer and closer because I know that if I play up to my potential the rest will take care of itself.”

    Knapp said he’s more comfortable than ever on both the stage and with his swing. He learned a bunch while struggling through the COVID-impacted season, and the comfort combined with feeling good enough to compete has resulted in a heaping handful of good results already. His month away from competing – while working at The Country Club – allowed him the necessary perspective on how much he appreciates what he does for a living. During that time, he also went back to work with his childhood coach, John Ortega. When Knapp first made it to the Korn Ferry Tour, Ortega and Knapp agreed that there wasn’t much he could teach anymore.

    But that steady hand from the guy who has always been Knapp’s coach has helped this season, too.

    “Going into the season, I didn’t really try to worry too much. Like you go in and think, like, ‘I need to win this year.’ I just wanted to feel like I was playing to my potential,” Knapp said. “And if I do that, everything would take care of itself.”

    From security to securing a TOUR card? It’s on the table.

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