Masters Champions Jordan Spieth is taking a well deserved break but another “can’t miss kid” with Texas ties is teeing it up at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this week.
Less than a decade ago Colt Knost was golf’s next big thing. The year was 2007 and the game’s best amateur player, by a long shot, was the just turned 22-year-old transplanted Texan. He dominated the USGA’s Amateur Public Links Championship beating Cody Paladino 6 & 4 at the Cantigny Golf Course in Wheaton, Illinois. Big deal, you say? Does the fact that between 1997 and 2004 the APL champions all went on to become PGA TOUR members, some winners and one, Trevor Immelmann, won The Masters change your impression?
Then later in the summer of ’07 Colt Knost made it, and himself, a very big deal winning the United States Amateur Championship beating Michael Thompson 2 & 1 at The Olympic Club. That victory meant Knost joined Ryan Moore as the only men to win the APL and the U.S. Am in the same year. The only two in 88 years!
Then adding to his golf resume Knost one-upped Moore by making a Walker Cup Team, going 2-0-2 in the 2007 match, helping lead Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and his other U.S. teammates to a one point victory at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. Knost now had a bucket loadof medals, mementos and memories, he also had automatic invitations to play in the 2008 Masters, United States Open Championship and British Open.
He held tight to the former and cast the latter to the wind turning pro after the Walker Cup Match. Colt Knost figured he was good enough to earn a starting time at those major events as a professional. Then life and golf happened and Knost is still waiting to play on the weekend at a major.
He did qualify for the 2012 U.S. Open but missed the cut. He’s still waiting to tee it up in golf’s other majors. I caught up with Colt, currently a member of the PGA TOUR, ranked 81st in the FedEx Cup standings after a strong start to the season, and asked him if he ever regretted the now almost eight year old decision to turn pro,
“I really don’t regret it,” he told me from his Dallas home, “I would have loved to play in The Masters but it was my time to go. My stock wasn’t going to get any higher and I had the opportunity to play in some great events.”
After a disappointing T-85 at the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament at the end of 2007 Knost found himself on what was then the Nationwide Tour and that’s where our Golf Channel broadcast team got to know him. He was both full of talent and personality and he quickly became one of our “go to guys” for sound bites, features and technology testing. Good round or bad, he was always friendly, funny and willing to give us some of his time. Sure we showed him on TV because of that but mostly we showed him because he could flat out play. He had success out there, winning twice in 2008 and earning his PGA TOUR card by finishing 6th on the year end money list. But success wasn’t in the cards on tour, at least not then.
“I think I put too much pressure on myself early on to perform and play well,” he said about his first full year (2009) on tour. “it’s a big culture shock when you step out on the PGA TOUR. There are so many outside distractions and things get kind of overwhelming for a young kid.”
He was back on the now web.com Tour in 2010 and while he didn’t win that year he did earn another shot at the PGA TOUR thanks to a 15th place finish on the money list. He was having fun then and despite some ups and downs he’s still having fun,
“I’m having a blast,” he told me. “I’ve realized how lucky I am to play this game for a living. I love traveling and being out there with the guys each week. It’s a blast and it’s nice to have a lot of the guys come up to me and tell me how happy they are that I’m back out there.”
The man he joined in the USGA record books, Ryan Moore, and the guy he beat in the U.S. Amateur Championship, Michael Thompson, are both PGA TOUR winners and I asked Colt if he ever talked to those two players about going from one level to the next,
“I haven’t reached out to them. I have to some other guys such as Justin Leonard, Harrison Frazar and Pat Perez that I talk to and listen to. But for the most part I know what I need to do and am working hard to get to where I want to be.”
Where he wants to be is slipping into a green jacket or holding a U.S. Open trophy on some future Sunday evening but until then, and possibly long after that happens, his fondest memory in this individual game is centered around a bunch of guys celebrating as a team,
“I think I probably remember the Walker Cup the most. It was the most fun I’ve ever had in golf. And at the time I don’t think any of us realized how special that team was going to be.”
Look it up. Ten players, five future PGA TOUR winners, one future major champion, one U.S. Amateur Champion, one future FedEx Cup million dollar winner, and two NCAA Individual Champions. Special indeed.
This piece isn’t meant to be a cautionary tale nor an advice column for future U.S. Amateur Champions. Colt Knost made the decision to turn pro for all the right reasons, his reasons. What this is, I hope, is a reminder of how great a player Colt Knost was and still is. One day he will
hear, “Fore please, Colt Knost now driving” from the first tee at Augusta National and when he does he will have arrived there with a ton of experience and on his own terms.
You can follow Colt and his fellow PGA TOUR pros at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans starting Thursday on Golf Channel and at pgatour.com
United States Amateur trophy photo courtesy USGA