Jake Kneen continues adding to an already impressive golf resume.
The 19-year-old White Lake native and 2014 Lakeland High grad is headed to the prestigous the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship, Aug. 17-23, in Olympia Fields Country Club (Ill.).
Kneen grabbed one of the three spots during a U.S Amateur local qualifier held July 13 at Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon when he fired a two-round total of 73-67-140. He took runner-up honors to Rigel Fernandes of Tampa, Fla, who shot a 137 in the stroke play event.
The third and final qualifying berth went to Canadian Turner Southey-Gordon, who defeated Novi’s Ryan Johnson, the 2015 Michigan Amateur champion, in a playoff after both carded 141s. (Johnson and Holt’s Jacob Johnson, who shot a 142, will be U.S Amateur alternates.)
Kneen, entering his sophomore season at Oakland University, was the 2014 Michigan Junior Amateur champion and was also named the 2015 Horizon League Freshman Player of the Year.
But earning a spot in this year’s U.S. Amateur field of 312 ranks among his top three all-time performances.
“This summer it was definitely at the top of my list,” Kneen said. “In the first round I played O.K., put together a 73. The second round I had five birdies in a six-hole stretch. My putter got hot and I just rode the momentum.”
Kneen was also in the field this past week at the Michigan PGA’s Tournament of Champions where he finished tied for 28th with a three-round score of 70-72-76-218 at Boyne’s Alpine and Monument courses.
“I played O.K.,” Kneen said. “I feel like I played better than my score indicated. The first two rounds I was hitting it really well, but couldn’t make any putts. Then, in the final round, I started to miss some fairways and it’s tough to hit out the trees on the Alpine Course.”
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Kneen combines the best of both worlds with accurate approach shots coupled with lengthy drives.
“Distance control with my short irons is probably the strength of my game,” he said. “I hit the ball long and that doesn’t hurt either.”
Kneen was exposed to competitive golf at an early age.
“I started at Mystic Creek Golf Club in Milford,” he said. “I played in golf tournaments when I was 5 years-old and won my first tournament when I was 5. My grandfather (Richard Kneen) played for his high school team. My dad (Scott) didn’t play on a team, but still played in leagues.”
At Lakeland under coach Hugh Felt, Kneen lettered all four seasons. As a senior he was regional champion and helped the Eagles to a sixth-place team finish in the MHSAA Division 1 finals. He also lifted Lakeland to a KLAA Lakes Conference crown as well.
After graduating from Lakeland’s International Academy-West’s accelerated baccalaureate program, Kneen moved on to Oakland where he is pre-med major in biomedical science.
During his first season with the Golden Grizzlies, Kneen played a total of eight events and averaged 75.30 per 18 holes (for 23 rounds). The freshman was named Horizon League Golfer of the Week on March 23 after shooting a 6-under for a three-round total of 210 in the Jackrabbitt Invitational.
In the Horizon League Championship, Kneen was the tourney’s first-round leader with a 1-under 71 before settling for a tie for 17th, tops among all freshman.
Kneen, however, is excited about the opportunity to play against some of the world’s top amateurs later this month at Olympia Fields in suburban Chicago, which has been the host of four Major championships.
“Not a lot of expectations, it’s just a victory to be in field in my opinion,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to make it to match play (top 64) because anything can happen in match play. And it’s really to fun make it that far.”
And Kneen also hopes he get a sneak peak of the Olympia Fields course as well.
“I know a little bit, I guess,” he said. “It’s an old-style country club. I know Jim Furyk won the U.S. Open there (2003). I’m looking forward to getting down there and getting a look at it, that’s for sure.”