When Jake Knapp is playing for the Estancia High boys’ golf team he has a different mentality than when he’s competing in junior events.
When’s he teeing it up with the Eagles, it’s all about having fun. During his junior season, it appears he is having a blast. He’s been the top player for Estancia during a banner season.
For some time, about 20 years ago, the school in Costa Mesa was known for its boys’ basketball teams. Nowadays, the Eagles just might grab some fame because of its boys’ golf team, mainly because of Knapp.
He’ll tell you differently, that it’s about the team. That’s the type of kid he is, but he has a point, as the Eagles just recently completed their first undefeated regular season.
Knapp is also honest, a straight shooter. Estancia didn’t really have a tough schedule this year, he said. But that’s not to take away from what Knapp has accomplished. He was the medalist in all but one of the 17 victories during the regular season.
“He’s had a tremendous year,” Eagles Coach Art Perry said. “I think he’s been only over par twice all season. He’s had so many birdies and eagles this year, it’s amazing. He’s going to be one of the best players Estancia has ever had, maybe the best.”
During the regular season, Knapp has been all about fun. But don’t get him wrong. That’s not to say he doesn’t want to win. He’s definitely competitive, especially as the action turns to the postseason.
It was easy to see that was the case when Knapp won the Orange Coast League individual championship Wednesday. The real story was Tuesday, as he built a 10-stroke lead with a sensational round at Costa Mesa Country Club’s Los Lagos course. Knapp made three eagles on his way to an eight-under-par 64.
The next day, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week won the OCL title for a second straight year, this time by 17 strokes.
In Knapp’s mind, May 16 is when the real fun starts. That’s when he competes in the CIF Southern Section Individual Championship at Skylinks Golf Course in Long Beach.
He’s confident because he knows he is playing some of his best golf within the past month. Last month, in Arizona, he finished fifth at the Heather Farr Classic, one of the top events during the year for the American Junior Golf Assn.
“I’ve just been playing smarter and not being so aggressive,” said Knapp, who has verbally committed to play at UCLA. “I feel like I have no problem making birdies. For me it’s just trying to eliminate the bogeys. Just keep it simple.”
He experienced success as a child, playing in junior tournaments, but no one knew what to expect because of his height. Back when Knapp was a freshman it used to be about Little Jake. But Jake is not so little anymore.
Before his freshman year, when he was 5-foot-1, Knapp dealt with Sever’s syndrome, a painful heel condition. He followed the doctors’ orders and lightened his load, choosing to solely compete in golf, rather than basketball and baseball too. He remained confident, knowing it was a temporary ordeal.
Later just before his sophomore year, after going through the Sever’s, Knapp shot up to 5-8. Now he’s up to six feet. He might continue to grow, as his older brother, Ryan, is 6-5.
There are no more aches now for Jake Knapp. Instead he’s being a pain for opponents.
Knapp’s above-average ball striking will only help him during the postseason. Last year, he reached the CIF SCGA Tournament, one step away from the state championships. He finished third in the CIF Southern Section Individual Championship last year.
This year, he wants victories and he wants to be the top player in the state. Knapp likes to think big apparently. He has goals to become a pro and to become the best on that level.
Those who know him hardly doubt him. They know his work ethic.
“He wants to be the best player; he wants to be No. 1,” Perry said. “He wants to be the best high school player, college player and the best player as a pro. He works at it every day. He’s practicing and playing as often as he can. He plays with the college guys and he usually beats the college guys.”
Perry also said Knapp’s personality makes it easy to root for him and encourage him to reach his goals. Knapp is very likeable and a well-mannered young man, Perry said. A lot of the credit goes to his parents, Bob and Jennifer, Perry said.
Knapp is well-liked at Estancia where he is the school’s spirit leader. He helps with the pep rallies and encourages his classmates to attend the assemblies and sporting events.
He’s also running for senior class president. Yes, not a bad year, so far.
“I’m pretty satisfied with this year,” Knapp said. “But I can’t totally be satisfied because I’m not done.”
Born: May 31, 1994
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Weight: 155 pounds
Coach: Art Perry
Favorite food: Los Primos (Mexican food)
Favorite movie: “The Greatest Game Ever Played”
Favorite athletic moment: Last year in the postseason, playing with Patrick Cantlay in the CIF Southern Section Individual Championship and finishing third.
Week in review: Medaled twice, leading Estancia to its first undefeated regular season.