Jake Kneen sets sights on title, pro career

Michael Pearce, Staff Reporter

Coming off of two straight Horizon League second team awards in golf, senior Jake Kneen has set his sights on the ultimate goal: Horizon League Player of the Year.

“The ultimate goal is to get Player of the Year,” Kneen said. “If you shoot that high and don’t get that, you will probably land on the first team. I feel like I’ve been working really hard and making big improvements. As long as I work with my team and keep improving, I can be player of the year.”

For the past 19 years, Kneen has had his own set of clubs. Golf has been a central aspect of his life almost since birth.

“When I was two years old my parents got me a set of plastic golf clubs from a garage sale for really cheap,” he said. “I played in my first tournament at five years old, I was really young. I played other sports growing up until my sophomore year of high school, when I really focused in.”

Last season, Kneen lead the team in stroke average with 74.28. 74.28 was 12th highest in Oakland history for single-season stroke average, but Kneen has cut that average down almost three whole strokes per round. With four tournaments to go in his final season, he has a stroke average of 71.83.

“My stroke average is a lot better this year,” Kneen said. “Between my sophomore and junior year it was kind of a plateau, but I felt like I was getting better. I knew if i stuck with it I’d see results. Over the summer I made a few changes, they really clicked and I built confidence this summer. I changed equipment, going back to an old trusty putter of mine, and I made some minor swing adjustments.”

Despite being a mainly individual sport, the golf team wins and loses championships based on the overall performance of all the golfers. This year, Kneen believes the team can win the Horizon League Championship, mainly because of its depth, starting with the two freshmen on the team, Thomas Giroux and Sean Niles.

“The freshmen this year are really good players, they’re a lot better than I was as a freshman,” Kneen said. “This has to be the best team we ever had at Oakland, I have the most faith I’ve had in four years that we can win a conference championship. Our team is so deep.”

The previous three seasons, Oakland has finished second in the Horizon League Championship each year. Now as a senior, Kneen knows there is pressure on him to lead the team to a title.

“There is pressure on me to win for sure, but being here for four years has taught me how to deal with pressure,” Kneen said. “I embrace it, I love pressure. Being in the big situation, that’s where I want to be.”

As a biomedical sciences major, Kneen has landed on the Horizon League Honor Roll for academics three times. Balancing a demanding major with a travel-heavy schedule has been a learning experience since coming to college.

“Since I am a biomedical science major, there’s a lot of work,” he said. “Throughout four years I’ve learned to balance my time. It can be tough, but I’m passionate about what I learn about and golf as well, so it isn’t that hard for me.”

After receiving his degree in April, Kneen will look to become a professional golfer and land on the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour.

“After I graduate I would like to turn pro in golf,” Kneen said. “The exact timing is the question. Probably toward the end of the upcoming summer is when I’ll go pro, and give it a shot.”