For the past eight years, the Honda Classic has made a huge commitment to South Florida Junior Golf to promote the game and help develop future champions. Through the Junior Honda Classic, the Honda Classic High School Invitational and sponsored junior foursomes playing in the Monday Pro-Ams, dozens of the top young local players have gotten a taste of golf's big leagues.The 2014 Honda Classic will be a graduation day of sorts for those programs and for Brooks Koepka. Koepka, who grew up in Wellington, won a state championship at Cardinal Newman High, became a three-time All American at Florida State and cut his teeth overseas in scintillating fashion the past year on the European and Challenge Tours, has been granted a Sponsor's Exemption into the Honda Classic. Koepka will be part of a World Class field chasing $6 million in purse money February 24-March 2 at PGA National Resort & Spa, hoping to continue his mercurial rise up the ladder in the world golf arena. "Brooks is a true local. He was born here, went to school here, was a leading member of the Cardinal Newman team. He has carried the baton for Palm Beach County junior golf for the past several years," Honda Classic Kenneth R. Kennerly said. "Now his game is at a level where he can compete seriously at The Honda Classic. "This is the first time since the event moved to Palm Beach County that a true local player has the qualification to be invited to play in the tournament. This is about a local kid whose tenacity has taken him to No. 88 in the world. If you think about it, Mark Calcavecchia was the last Palm Beach County player who made a mark like this in professional golf." Here is what has gone on in Koepka's life since he graduated from FSU and turned pro in May 2012. He has won four times on the Challenge Tour in Europe to earn an automatic promotion to the European Tour, playing in 15 different countries along the way. He has seen his World Golf Ranking soar from over 1,000 to his present rank of 88. He has played in three majors, the 2012 U.S. Open and the British Open and PGA Championship a year ago. He even came close to winning a PGA TOUR event. Playing on a Sponsor's exemption, Koepka held the lead on Friday and Saturday at the Frys.com Open in October before finishing in a tie for third. "Things have just kind of worked out really well, to say the least," Koepka said. Koepka seemed destined for this kind of career in golf when he was a kid working the fairways of Palm Beach County and starring at Cardinal Newman. His first exposure to pro golf came in 2007, his junior year, when he was invited to play in the Monday Pro Am at the Honda Classic as part of a program created by Honda Classic Executive Director Kenneth R. Kennerly and former RJR Nabisco CEO Ross Johnson. After he completed his stellar career at FSU, he had a decision to make. He could stay in the U.S. and try to rise through the Web.com Tour. Or he could go to Europe, the route he picked and is thrilled that he did. "It's a good learning experience playing over there," Koepka said. "I think you're traveling the world at 23. That's good. And it's a good experience playing overseas. I think you'll see a lot more guys do it." After failing in the second stage at Q School last year, Koepka surged to the top of the Challenge Tour rankings in the spring of 2013 with a a seven-stroke victory at the Montecchia Golf Open in May, his second win after first capturing the Challenge de Catalunya in October 2012. In June, he had a record 10-stroke victory in the Fred Olsen Challenge de Espana and then won three weeks later at the Scottish Hydro Challenge. Less than 24 hours later, Koepka raced to the final qualifying for the British Open and earned a spot in the field at Muirfield. It was his second major. He qualified as an amateur for the 2012 U.S. Open. Koepka also went on to earn a spot in the field in the PGA Championship, where he made his first Major cut and finished tied for 70th. To say Koepka was taking Europe's developmental circuit by a storm would have been an understatement. At one stretch, he played six straight weeks in six different countries. He got to play great golf at fun places, see the Swiss Alps, swim with sharks in South Africa and probably could have done without the three-hour road trip to his hotel in Kenya that was supposed to be 15 minutes or the horse meat that was put on his plate in Kazakhstan. "There were a couple times that it went through my mind, like when I did two six-week stretches in a row, that it kind of got to me where like, `Man, I kind of want to be home.,"' Koepka said. "You just got to stick through it. "The Challenge Tour prepared me pretty well. I feel like learning how to win, that is a big deal. Learning how to travel, that was a big thing. I think coming out of college you don't play many events, maybe 10 during the year or something. But week in and week out playing, how to handle yourself, things like that. And not even golf related, but cultural, seeing all these different places. You just hope you grow as a person, too." The experience has been so rewarding that regardless of how he fares in his U.S. appearances, regardless of how he does in The Honda or whether he eventually lands a full-time spot on the PGA TOUR, Koepka always envisions himself spending part of his time overseas. He is fully exempt on the European Tour this year. "I think everybody wants to be a worldwide player," Koepka said. "At least for me, that's what I want to be able to do, play the European Tour and the PGA TOUR. I just need to get established over here a little bit more, but I would try to go back and forth. "My schedule changes minute by minute. You play well here, everything changes. Sometimes it's hard to know how I feel when I don't know where I'm going next."
Copyright © 2012 - Present The Honda Classic. All rights reserved.
Site by q new media