COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - There’s more than one way to be a professional golfer. You’ve got the touring pros, who get all the notice and glory. Then there’s the club pros, the guys who keep the courses going and do the golf lessons and basically keep the amateur players happy. There’s a golf pro in Columbus who’s trying to do a little bit of both, and he’s about to finally get his shot at high level competition.
Jake Keen put it all together over the past year despite the complications of COVID. He qualified for the 2020 National PGA Pro Tournament -- which wound up getting canceled. Meanwhile on the day job side of things, Keen was named the assistant club pro of the year by the Georgia PGA for his work at Maple Ridge Golf Course.
“For all intents and purposes, it was a successful year for me,” Keen said. “But I never got to compete and play, and that’s all I wanted to do. I just wanted a chance to compete.”
Keen is getting a mulligan. He re-qualified for this year’s nationals at the Georgia PGA Pro Championship last October, and since then he’s been preparing for his big chance, getting a lot of support from those around him.
“I’m very fortunate here at Maple Ridge that I get the opportunity to practice on my days off, and then I also try to practice either before or after work at times. My wife is very supportive of me going and practicing because she says if you’re going to do this and want to compete at a high level, you’ve got to practice at a high level.”
Keen likes how his game is looking. Now, it’s just a matter of putting it together to reach his goal of a top-20 finish in the 312-golfer field at the PGA Pro Championship and getting an invite to the PGA Championship next month at Kiawah Island, S.C. He has his approach worked out.
“Just try to stay fairways and greens, keeping it simple, one shot at a time,” said Keen. “I know that’s a cliché but that’s really where the mental part comes into play, and the game plan course management, not trying to do too much. If you get in trouble, just get out of trouble. Don’t try to hit the hero shot unless you have to.”
The 26-year old Keen reflected on what’s in store for him, and the possibilities that await a successful tournament.
“You know, it’s one of those dreams I’ve had since I was a little kid. I’m not getting any younger, so I might as well take advantage of it now. You work for this, you keep on chugging along, and eventually things can happen. It’s just four days of good play and it can happen. Dreams can come true. Just having the opportunity is special, but being able to fulfill and cash in on that opportunity would be amazing.”
The PGA Professional Championship gets underway on Sunday at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida.