Why Knapp, a former bouncer, got emotional after building big lead in Mexico

Jake Knapp isn’t the type of guy you’d want to get into a bar fight with.

But he’s got a soft side as well.

The 29-year-old Knapp is nearly 6 feet tall and 200 pounds of pure muscle, which explains why when he applied for a job a few years ago at an up-scale restaurant in Costa Mesa, California, hoping to maybe work as a barback, the owner tabbed him for security detail. Knapp, having just lost his Korn Ferry Tour card in 2021 and fallen flat at Q-School, spent eight months as a bouncer at The Country Club, which doubles as a nightclub.

“Standing there at 1 in the morning every Friday and Saturday night, you kind of realize how good you have it when you get to travel and play golf for a living,” Knapp said. “… It just kind of gave me some thicker skin and allowed me to get to where I am now.”

Now, of course, is leading the PGA Tour’s Mexico Open after 54 holes.

The rookie, who already has flexed once this season by tying for third at the Farmers Insurance Open, flirted with 59 on Saturday at Vidanta Vallarta, playing the front nine in 7-under 28. He then hooked with tee ball, with an iron, into the penalty area on the next hole and eventually signed for an 8-under 63, good enough for a four-shot lead at 19 under.

So far on Tour this season, 54-hole leaders are 5 of 7 in closing out wins. None of them had more than a three-shot lead.

And none of them likely can out-bench Knapp.

Knapp said Saturday evening that he’d get in a workout before going to bed. Another would surely follow in the morning. He also planned to send a text to his grandfather, something he’s done after every golf round he’s played since he can remember.

Texts these days, though, are a bit different. Knapp’s grandfather, Gordon Bowley, died April 17, 2023, from cancer. Bowley was president of Costa Mesa United, a nonprofit that provides grants for youth sports. After his death, Knapp got a tattoo with his grandfather’s initials, G.S.F.B., just under his left bicep.

“He was the guy I talked to after every single round,” Knapp said. “Still text him after every round…”

Knapp’s voice choked up.

“Sorry,” he added, before stepping away from the mic momentarily.

“Yeah,” Knapp continued, “he’s super special to me and my entire family, so I know he’s with me out there and he’s watching.”

Asked what he’d text his grandfather this time, Knapp responded, still emotional: “Just that I miss him, miss talking to him, wish he could see it. It was always like my dream, and his dream as well, for me to get out here. Yeah, I’m sorry…”

Knapp took another moment, and then finished: “My family and I talk a lot about it. Just very thankful to have a grandparent that was so close and so involved in my professional life and just our lives in general.”

There were no more questions after that. His eyes welled, Knapp stepped out of the flash area.

He had quite the fight ahead of him: Closing out his first Tour title.

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