With the PGA Tour’s springtime long Texas swing finally packed up and moved up north, it was time for Texas-based professional players to count their blessings for a series of home state starts, chances to sleep in their own beds and see familiar faces.
None more so than former Baylor golf standout Kyle Jones, a 2015 graduate, who is competing in his first full year on the PGA Tour against the world’s best professional golfers and learning the well-honored theme that success on the pro golf tour is a marathon, certainly not a sprint.
“At this level golf is still golf, but you have to play so good and you have to be so consistent and that’s what those guys do,” Jones said after missing the 36-hole cut at the AT&T Byron Nelson tournament in Dallas. “I’m learning the courses and the players and learning that everybody peaks at different times.
“It’s not like football or basketball where you may only play in the pros for two or three years. You have the chance to play golf for a long time.”
Jones overcame a slow start in San Antonio in March at the Valero Texas Open with rounds of 67, 70 and 71 to finish tied for 51st, his second best finish in 2019.
While Jones missed the cut in Dallas and didn’t qualify to play at Fort Worth at Colonial, he was looking at the bright side of his North Texas stay.
A resident of Grapevine, which allows his access to DFW Airport for his PGA Tour schedule, Jones was able sleep at home, and see to his girlfriend Caroline, who came up from Waco along with a group of several Baylor friends to cheer him on at the Byron Nelson.
Jones said he takes solace in his current climb on the PGA Tour by seeing what former Baylor golf star Jimmy Walker, who struggled early in his career, has accomplished. Walker persisted to six PGA Tour wins, including the 2016 PGA Championship.
“You can see that Jimmy didn’t peak until later in his career, but it has certainly worked out well for him,” Jones said.
Walker said he hasn’t had a chance to play much with Jones this year on the Tour, but always like to see other Baylor golfers doing well.
“I always like to get down to Waco and see what they are doing there and see some of the young golfers,” Walker said. “It’s very impressive.”
One person who has little doubt Jones is targeted for PGA Tour success is Baylor men’s head golf coach Mike McGraw. He caddied for Jones during an early qualifying school appearance in 2015, and said it’s only a matter of continued improvement for Jones to achieve his pro golfing dreams.
“Kyle is one of the smartest golfers I have ever been around,” McGraw said. “I feel certain he will get his figured this out and will only continue to succeed.
“You look at what he accomplished on the Web.com. The first year (2016) he started he wasn’t very successful, but then he came back last year (2018) and dominated for five top-10 performances and two second-place finishes. If he doesn’t succeed like he wants to on the PGA Tour this year, I have no doubt he will take that experience and succeed in the future.”
Already Jones had an early 2019 highlight when he played well enough in the first three rounds to be paired in the final round of the Genesis Open in Los Angeles with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, in a tournament which J.B. Holmes ultimately won.
“That was a learning experience for sure to see how they approach the game,” Jones said. “Wow, Rory is certainly Rory, to be able see that up close and personal.”
When not traveling around the country, already playing 18 Tour events since last October, Jones said he tries to spend as much time as possible at Baylor and the new Billy Williams Golf Practice Facility.
“It’s an incredible place to practice with just about anything you could ask for,” Jones said. “I know Coach McGraw will help me with anything I need and I am glad I can work and learn there.”
Working and learning have become the prime building blocks of Jones’ still budding golf career, which the latest Baylor PGA representative hopes will eventually lead to victories and large prize winnings.
Starburst just around the corner
Waco will once again be ground central for some top junior golf, June 17-18 for the 21st Annual Starburst Junior Golf Classic at Ridgewood Country Club and Cottonwood Creek Golf Club.
The tournament is open to all players, ages 7-19 as of June 17, 2019. Players will compete for prizes, trophies and college scholarships. Past winners of the Starburst Junior Classic include Masters champions Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Registration for the tournament is ongoing and can completed at starburstgolf.com.