“Golf is the closest game we have to the game we call life,” said Hall of Fame golfer Bobby Jones. “You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots . . . But you have to play the ball where it lies.”
Basalt’s Jim Knous is finding this out firsthand, and living a lifelong dream playing golf during his first season on the Professional Golf Association tour.
At 28, Knous has been focused on the game of golf since he began to take it seriously at Basalt High School, which he attended 2004-2008.
“I had friends at Basalt High who were also very good at golf and that helped me get better quickly,” says Knous, on the phone a day after he finished play last weekend at the Desert Classic in Palm Desert, Calif. “I played downvalley at Ironbridge every day after school and on the weekends, and I practiced my tail off.”
After high school, Knous attended the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, where his love of math and science prompted him to become an engineering major. He was also a member of the Orediggers’ golf team and competed nationally with success similar to what he achieved in high school. It was then that he began to think his dream of playing professionally might be attainable.
But there’s a world of difference from playing with buddies on the weekend to competing in college and then competing on the PGA tour.
Knous played two years on the Web.com tour, where most PGA golfers begin and get their initial experience. After playing in a series of tournaments after his second year, Knous received the last tour card awarded for 2018, and his lifelong dream of competing against the best in golf was about to become a reality.
On the PGA Tour, what separates the winners from the rest?
“I think the guys that are at the top are really consistent week to week,” Knous explains. “I have weeks where I hit the ball really well off the tee and from the fairways, but maybe I don't putt great. That’s kind of how it was for me this week [at the Desert Classic]. And then I’ll have other weeks where I'm not hitting it great off the tee, but I’m putting really well.”
At the Desert Classic, Knous started off competitively on Thursday with a round of two under par, dropped down the field on Friday playing two over par and then came back strong on Saturday at five under par. Unfortunately his -5 total missed the cut, so he did not earn a chance to play on Sunday or earn any prize money.
“I was driving the ball very well, but I just wasn’t putting well,” Knous says. “I think it was on day two (Friday) that I had a couple of three putts. I don’t like to three putt once in an entire tournament, so that really irritated me. I need a little putting work right now so that I get a little better.”
But Knous has performed pretty well for his first year on the PGA tour. At his first PGA tournament last October in Napa, Calif., he finished 10th and earned $153,000.
“I just try to have a good ball-striking week, and then if I get really hot with the putter, I’m right up there with the leaders,” Knous says. “That's kind of how I approach the game."
Looking forward to the Farmers Insurance Open this week at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 24-27), Knous knows what it will take to compete with the likes of Tiger Woods (who is playing his first tournament of the year at Torrey) and Phil Mickelson, who tied for second at the Desert Classic.
“I’ll go into next week trying to get the speed of the greens right, because if your speed is off, you are not going to make any putts,” Knous explains. “You can have the right line, but if your speed is off, it’s just not going to go in. So that’s really the first thing. That’s key.”
At Torrey Pines, Knous will also have his hometown rooting team in attendance with both of his parents, Basalt residents Ellen and Steve Knous, Jim’s wife, Heidi, 7-month-old baby Brady, Heidi's parents and other significant others and friends traveling to San Diego to root him on.
After Torrey Pines, Jim and Heidi will drive to Phoenix, Ariz., where he will have to play on Monday in order to make it into the tournament. From Arizona, they drive the length of California up to Pebble Beach in the Monterey Bay, then back down to Los Angeles before flying east to the Florida portion of the PGA Tour. It’s a lot of time and miles on the road.
With a busy tour schedule that keeps him on the road for at least six months of the year and playing 22-28 golf tournaments, Knous’ visits to the Roaring Fork Valley have become limited.
“Yeah, I try and come and visit,” he says. “We try and get up as much as we can. Usually it’s around the holidays, Thanksgiving or Christmas, when the golf season is at a lull. We were a huge skiing family. Snowmass was our favorite mountain, and I miss it sometimes for sure. But, during the season, we just don’t have much time to visit.”
After his golf-playing days, Knous’ good memories of Basalt and the Roaring Fork Valley may be enough to get him to return.
“There’s always the possibility,” Knous says. “My wife has always wanted to live in a small mountain town.”
And I know from his mother Ellen just how much she enjoys being a grandmother; so having Brady nearby would definitely make her happy.