Texas Driving Vary Professional Monday qualifies for Valero Texas Open | Golf information and tour data

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JJ Killeen had his first press conference in a decade late on Monday afternoon. It was done, of course, selfie style in his car somewhere in Kerrville, Texas.

“Well, those were nails,” said the sun-kissed, stubbly 39-year-old former Nationwide Tour Player of the Year-turned-Twitter personality after qualifying for this week’s PGA Tour stop, the Valero Texas Open. “Credit to me. Playoff season, my goodness. Super cheered to get in. “

Then the West Texas Driving Range Pro (his Twitter handle) with cult following really exposed the self-deprecating humor that made him so popular and entertaining in social media circles.

“The family support is obviously great,” he continued. “My son told his teacher that his mother has two jobs and his father has zero, so it will be cool for him to watch me. Hopefully I can get a cut and he’ll think I actually have a job this week. “

A big step is already out of the way.

Killeen shot a five-under-67 to finish fourth in Monday’s qualifying at the Club at Comanche Trace. He then beat Blake Elliott on the second extra hole to survive a 2v1 sudden death playoff and finish last in the field this week at TPC San Antonio.

Getting through means his first start on the PGA Tour since Valero 2015 and the first on a major tour since 2016. There were also a number of congratulations and congratulations on Twitter.

“I’m only playing in a tournament that isn’t on a Monday,” Killeen told Golf Digest when asked what the best part of the small win is and what it means to him. “It’s cool. My wife has seen me play a number of tournaments, but my kids haven’t, and all the Lubbock people I live with, I don’t think they ever thought I was a professional golfer . ”

But knowing Killeen as a social media sensation means knowing only part of his story or the man.

In college, San Diego-born Killeen was a solid, if not standout, player at Texas Christian University. Although he did not win any tournaments, his success lay in his consistency: he played in 50 tournaments for the Horned Frogs over four years and achieved half a dozen top 10 placements and 16 top 20 placements. In 2005, his senior year, he was named Conference USA Golfer of the Year and was only the third athlete in school history – in any sport – to play on four conference championship teams.

However, things moved more slowly as he reached the pros.

After twirling around on mini tours for a couple of years, Killeen finally landed on the Nationwide Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour) in 2008. Once there, his progress was steady but unspectacular, with seven top 10 finishes in three seasons. And in 2010, he missed getting his PGA Tour card in one fell swoop, shooting a two-under-70 card and back to the minors on the final round of the final six rounds of the Q School in Orange County National.

But then it happened: in 2011, Killeen won twice on the Nationwide Tour for two straight weeks at the Utah Championship, where a Final Round 65 led to a four-stroke win, and again at the Cox Classic. where he held on to win by one. He finished the year as the track’s top cash winner, grossing just over $ 414,000, named Player of the Year, and signed to the PGA Tour.

However, the stay would not last.

With 33 starts in 2012, Killeen only had a top 10 and almost as many bad cuts (16) as he made (17). His best result was eighth in the True South Classic (now Sanderson Farms Championship), but he finished the season 145th in the FedEx Cup standings and lost his card.

The following year, he made the cut in just 10 of 20 starts on the Nationwide Tour. The grind that touring life brings with it had also taken its toll. After two shoulder operations in 2014, Killeen found himself at a crossroads, weighing career options: keep chasing the dream or pursue a new one.

With a wife, 10 year old daughter and 6 year old son at home and the often lonely and unforgiving world of touring life that looked less appealing, he decided on the latter. Killeen and some childhood friends launched 4ORE !, a top golf-style entertainment facility in Lubbock, Texas in 2017. He also delved into other business activities and began teaching as well, which in part led to his desire to create a presence on Twitter.

“I teach so much that there is generally a communication component,” he said. “”[Twitter] helped me with this. The lesson is so serious too; A lot of what we do on Twitter is associated with beer or alcohol, or common household appliances that have a similar movement to golf. Much of it has application. And it was just cool to interact with different people. You also tire on Mondays. “

Even so, Killeen has never entirely given up the tour, trying more than two dozen Monday qualifiers on the PGA Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour in the past two years. On a few occasions, he was close to breakthrough before finally doing so this week, which of course led to a final goodbye thought at his one-man press conference.

“I think it could be a great night to have my very first cerveza,” Killeen hesitated. “Maybe I can win and do magic.”

In a way, it already has. Cheers.