Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

 

Local wins on golf’s biggest stage, and boy, would his grandfather be proud!

Back in the early 1990s I became friends with a guy from Costa Mesa who was somewhat legendary in his own right. Gordon Bowley was an emcee extraordinaire for many non-profit events around town and an absolute funny guy to everyone that knew him. He was a Hoag board member and active in a number of organizations in both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. He was also perhaps the most instrumental individual in the local communities when it came to raising funds for and promoting youth sports (Costa Mesa United).

As the years began piling on, we became more than just friends, we became close friends. We served together on several local committees, participated in Rotary together, and when that no longer fit, we started our own spinoff group called CM 900.

He and I were even part of a group of guys that would travel a couple of times up to Idaho or Montana to go snowmobiling, or just hang out to have fun while getting away from it all for a few days.

Gordon knew my family and I knew his.

He had six grandsons…two of which played golf. Back when I started to play with both boys occasionally they didn’t put up much of a challenge. Of course, back then, Ryan and Jake Knapp were both probably under 10.

I remember Jake playing when his driver was close to being taller than he was. Gordo, as I called Gordon, would chuckle after Jake would purposely hit his ball in a nearby trap saying, “he thinks it’s fun hitting out of the sand.”

Well, he eventually got good at that and a lot of other aspects of the game.

Kids grow up…fast. By high school, Jake and Ryan were both better than good. They each successfully played collegiate golf; Ryan for OCC, then UCI, and Jake for UCLA.

I used to think that one of them would get to what golfers refer to as “the Big Dance” someday. Well, Jake Knapp finally did. But not without a somewhat long and bumpy battle.

My first real recollection of just how good his game was when as a 17-year-old Jake played in a U.S. Open qualifier at Newport Beach Country Club. The low pro on the day shot an impressive three-under 68. Jake, a junior at Estancia High School, shot 61. Yes, he won the qualifier by seven strokes.

After college, he played several years on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, winning three times, but struggled to get his game to the next level, even returning home to take some odd jobs to get back on track.

Finally, several years ago he made it to the Korn Ferry Tour, the AAA minor leagues of the PGA Tour’s big show. Last year, he finished 13th on their Points List (top 30 get their PGA card).

During 2023, he had 10 top-10s, made 20 of 22 cuts and finished 10th in the Korn Ferry’s season-ending Tour Championship, and finished second in stroke avg. on the year at 68.61.

With all of that he was on to the PGA Tour for 2024. But, anyone that follows golf knows that lots of guys make it out there, but more often than not, they don’t last very long.

Anyway, Jake was off to see what he could do. He showed some promise shooting 65 in the second round of the Sony Open in Hawaii to open up 2024; he then finished third at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego a few weeks back, pocketing a tidy $477,000.

Still, most would say he faced an uphill climb.

Well, that all changed this past weekend. Playing in the PGA’s $8 million Mexico Open at Vidanta Vallarta, Vallarta, Mex., Jake, now 29 years old, led the tournament by four strokes after three rounds with a tournament tying record of -19.

He became the story of the Golf Channel’s and NBC’s TV coverage. And with that came huge pressures as the cameras followed his nearly every move. And although he didn’t necessarily show his best stuff over the final 18, he still managed an even-par 71 to win his first PGA Tour title (by two strokes), a huge silver trophy and a winner’s check of $1,458,000.

With the win comes a Tour exemption through 2026, entry into the Masters, the PGA, The Player’s Championship and more. It’s absolutely life-changing.

The only thing that would have made the story even better is that if his grandfather, my old friend Gordon, would have been on hand to witness the whole thing. Unfortunately, Gordon passed last April.

But Jake’s thoughts were never too far removed from Gordo, tattooing his grandfather’s initials inside his left bicep as a permanent reminder of him; and, he also regularly texted him, even after his passing, just as he always had to tell him what he accomplished that particular week on the golf course. Afterall, the Bowley/Knapp family was extremely close, ALL gathering EVERY week at Gordon and Carol’s home to share Sunday dinner together and catch up.

Those of us who know him know that Gordon was smiling somewhere in the heavens on Sunday; most probably reciting one of his favorite lines when sending his congrats to young Jake, lovingly saying, “It’s about time you hockey puck!”

B-t-w, remember earlier in this story that I also mentioned Jake’s brother Ryan and his very solid golf game? Well, Ryan is a seriously accomplished Costa Mesa real estate agent for Torelli Realty and is two-time defending Mesa Verde Country Club Men’s Club Champion.

Yes, it runs in the family!

• • •

Speaking of sports accomplishments, the Boys’ Soccer team at Newport Harbor High School won the CIF-SS Division 2 Championship on Saturday, Feb. 24, beating Foothill, 4-3.

Well done!

• • •

Sherman Library & Gardens will present their first of three spring plant and flower shows this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, March 3 and 4). First up is Joyful Flowers: Ikebana Show, from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. each day.

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging, expressed in a special way using balance, harmony and form. Ikebana uses everything that nature offers to make art including branches, leaves and flowers.

Families are invited to join in and make their own mini-ikebana box to take home. The sales area will also include kits, books, arrangements and bouquets to purchase.

The show will also feature an ikebana-inspired display created by the Sherman Library & Gardens horticulture team in the garden.

Garden admission is only $5, and always free for members.    

• • •

If you’ve been looking for a place to go float your boat, more specifically moor it, the City of Newport Beach has introduced a new license program offering 16 onshore and offshore city-owned moorings to the public in a variety of sizes. Applications for the initial licenses will be accepted through March 1.

According to the city, “The new program is designed for vessel owners to lease moorings long-term without having to acquire a permit, sub-permit or mooring equipment.

“Monthly fees will be charged based on the size of the mooring, starting at $162 a month for an 18-ft. mooring. There is no cost to apply for one of the 16 new mooring leases.

“The licenses will be issued by random drawing from among the applications received by March 1. Assignments will be made based on the fit of available moorings to vessel size. Applicants who do not receive a mooring assignment in the initial drawing will be placed on a waiting list, as will applicants who submit after March 1.

“Successful applicants will be contacted after the drawing and have 14 days to execute a mooring license agreement.

“The mooring license application can be completed and submitted online via the city’s Virtual Connect application portal.”

For more information, visit www.newportbeachca.gov/harbor or contact the Harbor Department at harbormaster@newportbeachca.gov or 949.270.8159.

• • •

B-t-w, lifelong Newport Beach resident and the only candidate so far for Newport Beach City Council, District 7, Sara Weber announced yesterday that she has raised more than $125,000 in her campaign’s first six weeks.

Sara added, “The support for my campaign’s vision and priorities has been humbling. Every supporter joins in my support for funding our police, building and maintaining core infrastructure, and safeguarding Newport Beach’s unique charm as an exceptional place for our children and the generations that will follow.”

Weber is a small business owner, wife and mother, and licensed CPA. She was born and raised here in Newport Beach, she attended Our Lady Queen of Angels Elementary School and Corona del Mar High School.


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