Journeys

How one round changed this PGA Tour rookie's life

January 06, 2020
img_24_1.jpg

img_24_1.jpg

Photo by: Jensen Larson

Jensen Larson

Everybody gives me a hard time about the “where I’m from” section of my online tour bio. I have Camden, N.J., listed as my birthplace and Dallas as my residence, but I was only born in Camden. I grew up in Kansas City, Kan. That’s where I’m really from. We had a Korn Ferry Tour event in Kansas City last year, and I asked the starter to introduce me as being from Kansas City. “All my friends will kill me if they hear Dallas,” I said. Another time I played in a pro-am, and my whole group was from New Jersey. They were so excited to play with me, but I was like, “Sorry. I’m not actually a Jersey guy.”

• • •

MY DAD TAUGHT MY YOUNGER BROTHER AND ME HOW TO PLAY GOLF. We mimicked him hitting Wiffle balls in the back yard. We’d draw golf courses on the kids’ paper tablecloths at restaurants. Our parents realized we were obsessed, so they got us junior sets.

• • •

IT WAS COMPETITIVE BETWEEN MY BROTHER AND ME ALMOST IMMEDIATELY. We pushed each other and tried our best to beat each other. We lived on a golf course, so I could ride my bike to the golf shop. I remember playing in summers, sunup to sundown.

• • •

I DIDN’T HAVE A LESSON UNTIL MY FRESHMAN YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL. I PREFERRED TO WORK ON MY GAME ALONE. I was the king of being out there 10 hours a day, but I soon realized there was only an hour in which I was really focused. This changed when I went to SMU. They had great teachers and a ton of information available. Others were using the swing coaches, all of the data from TrackMan, and they were beating me, so I realized I needed to use it, too.

• • •

TRAVELING ON PGA TOUR LATINOAMÉRICA WAS A MIX BETWEEN A CIRCUS AND A FRATERNITY. We all had just graduated college, got status and went to South America. My Spanish was OK, but it was more important to know golf Spanish because you had to converse with your caddies, who were locals. Corta means short, so we’d say, “Corta es mejor” (Short is better). It was never perfect. If I was between 7-iron and 8-iron, there was only so much my caddie could do to help. If I pulled 8, it was my responsibility to hit it where it was supposed to go. It made me take more ownership of my game.

• • •

THE CADDIES SOMETIMES TOOK BUSES AT 3 A.M. TO COME CADDIE. WHEN YOU’RE FOCUSED ON PLAYING GOLF, YOU FORGET THAT THERE’S A WHOLE OTHER WORLD OUT THERE. These guys are lugging my clubs for $50 a day, feeding their families off of that —I always paid more when I played well—yet they were so excited to be there. It was humbling.

• • •

IN 2017, I HAD NO STATUS ANYWHERE. I was back playing mini-tour events. I thought about quitting.

• • •

AT A Q-SCHOOL QUALIFIER IN ST. GEORGE, UTAH, THAT YEAR, I REMEMBER BEING ONE OR TWO SHOTS INSIDE THE NUMBER. Walking to the range, I thought, If I don’t get through this stage of Q school—here, now—I’m going to be out of money. It’s more pressure than being in contention in a PGA Tour event where if you don’t have your best day, you’re still going to make a lot of money. If I didn’t have my best stuff in Utah that day, I was looking for a different job.

• • •

I SHOT 63. I did it when I needed to and did it super clean. It’s a round I still think about.

• • •

THERE’S A LOT OF NONGOLF FACTORS THAT GO INTO MAKING IT. Asking people for money and getting told no, for example, is hard. I remember getting dressed up and having a business plan for my first meeting and being told, “I don’t do charity.” I must have asked 60 people my first year. I printed the “No” emails and hung them in my room as motivation.

• • •

I GET IT. They say boxers, restaurants and golfers are all terrible investments. But for some people, it’s a way to live their dream through me. My first year, seven people pitched in to give me a total of $45,000.

• • •

IN 2019, I HAD FRIENDS FROM TRINITY FOREST AND BENCHMARK BANK IN DALLAS HELP ME FOR THE YEAR WITH MY EXPENSES. That was the first time I felt I could play freely without the worry of money, and obviously that worked out. I finished fifth in the Korn Ferry season standings to earn my PGA Tour card.

• • •

I WAS PAIRED WITH ADAM SCOTT FOR ONE OF MY FIRST WEEKS ON THE PGA TOUR. The crowds following him were huge and loud, but they didn’t notice me. We both made a nice run of birdies on the back nine. There were a few holes where we both birdied, and I’m walking off the green, and no one says anything, and Adam walks off the green, and everyone’s like, “Come on, Adam! One more!” I say, “Hey, I made birdie, too!” I thought it was funny, and the crowd did, too.

• • •

I WANT TO WIN THE FEDEX CUP. I think it’s good to throw out ridiculously aggressive goals, because that way you’re never satisfied. I want to feel like what I do is good enough, and that I belong.

• • •

I HATE LOSING, BUT I DON’T GIVE IT MUCH POWER. I’ve always been an optimist. Even if I miss a cut, I only think about the good shots. Trust me, I’ve hit some terrible shots. But luckily what fills my mind is more of the good. I took a roundabout way of getting here, but that mentality is what got me through.

—WITH KEELY LEVINS


You are using an unsupported version of Internet Explorer. Please upgrade to Internet Explorer 11 or use a different web browser.