PGA Tour winner worked as nightclub bouncer to keep golf dream alive before $1.5M payday


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The origin story of Jake Knapp, the PGA Tour’s most recent winner at the Mexico Open, is one of the more interesting on the way to earning a tour card.

For most golfers trying to reach the highest levels of play all over the world, it is common to work various jobs to help pay for travel and compete in various tournaments.  

Knapp, who was running out of funding for golf, worked as a nightclub bouncer to make the money necessary to keep that dream of going pro alive. 

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Jake Knapp showered with water bottles

Jake Knapp of the United States celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Mexico Open at Vidanta Vallarta on Feb. 25, 2024 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. (Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

The story goes like this for Knapp. After losing his Korn Ferry Tour card in 2021, Knapp was looking for ways to make some quick cash. So, he decided to become a bouncer at a nightclub for nine months. 

While one may shake their head at this career choice, Knapp was able to work on his golf game during the day and get work done at night as well. He would use the money he made at night to participate in mini-tour events as well as PGA Tour Canada tournaments. 

Knapp did not want to be at the front of a nightclub checking IDs for patrons, but he always had golf on his mind. 

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“I was the one standing at the front door checking IDs and doing all that kind of stuff,” he said on “The Smylie Show” with fellow PGA Tour winner Smylie Kaufman. “And it was like, ‘Man, what am I doing here?’ This isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing, but I had somebody give me a good piece of advice. ‘You are where you are for a reason. If you don’t want to be there, work your way out of it.’”

Knapp eventually got back to the Korn Ferry Tour last year, and he was able to secure his PGA Tour card this year. 

Now 29 years old, Knapp can say he is a PGA Tour champion, finishing 19-under at Vidanta Vallarta in his ninth career start. 

Jake Knapp catches golf ball

Jake Knapp of the United States catches a ball during the final round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta Vallarta on Feb. 25, 2024 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. (Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

Knapp did not have the prettiest final round of the tournament, but he got the job done, shooting even-par 71 to hold off Finland’s Sami Valimaki, who finished 17-under to claim second place. Valimaki had a chance to potentially force a playoff when he stepped up to the par-5 18th hole, but his tee shot ended up underneath a fence. He was forced to take relief, which meant giving up one stroke. 

From there, Knapp tapped in his final putt and the celebration ensued. 

Knapp’s impressive third round, which included a front-nine 28 after seven birdies, saw him finish 8-under for the day to take the lead heading into the final round Sunday. 

Of course, Knapp wants to continue playing well to remain in the Top 60, which would secure a spot at this year’s U.S. Open. However, he will be sure to take a step back and celebrate not just the win, but the bumpy road it took to get to this point in his career. 

Jake Knapp kisses trophy

Jake Knapp of the United States kisses the trophy after winning the Mexico Open at Vidanta Vallarta on Feb. 25, 2024 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. (Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images)

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Knapp went from No. 101 to No. 52 in the world after the win, while also sitting eighth in the FedEx Cup standings. 



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