In the making of the new superstar, Brooks Koepka, I want to take you back almost 20 years ago, when the golf seed was planted into the Koepka world at the tender age of 10. Koepka’s father thought golf would be a great physical and mental outlet for his son as he developed in order to stay on the straight and narrow. I guess that worked well, and now, oddly enough, Brooks has the reputation of hitting his drives on narrow fairways very straight.
The PGA Club Professional entrusted with the task of teaching Brooks the game was Warren Bottke, a highly regarded Master Professional located at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. Evidently, Brooks was a good student, always eager to put in the extra effort, but little did Warren know back then that this little 10-year-old boy would become the number one ranked player in the world, have four Major Championships to his name, and start a whole new chapter in the history books.
As Brooks grew and matured, he came to realize that the life of a professional golfer was something he wanted to pursue. The question, as it is with most young players, what was the right path to follow? After getting the advice of many, Koepka became convinced the right path for him would be to play in Europe so he could evaluate whether his game would hold up to PGA Tour standards.
Early in that process, according to his coach, Warren Bottke, Koepka started to doubt that his game was good enough. In fact, Bottke shared with me that he received a call from Brooks who was playing in Europe basically saying that he was convinced that his game wasn’t good enough and that he wanted to return home.
Warren told me that he reminded Brooks of the promise he had made that he would give it a full year. He finally agreed to stay and shortly thereafter, Koepka’s game began to shine and he ended up with five European Tour victories before joining the PGA Tour. As you can imagine, after Brooks won his first Major Championship, the 2017 U.S. Open, at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, Brooks and Warren were delighted that he hadn’t thrown in the towel.
Koepka’s closest friend on Tour is Dustin Johnson, whose coach is the legendary Butch Harmon. Bottke, Johnson’s first coach, knew he had guided him as far as he could and the search started to find a coach to take him to the next level. Butch Harmon was not a perfect fit because he already working with DJ, but Brooks was fully aware that a second set of eyes on his swing was vital to achieving added success. Since Butch was not available, Koepka did the next best thing and joined forces with Butch’s son, Claude Harmon III. There is no doubt that Claude has proven to be the ideal fit taking up where Bottke left off.
Watching Brooks play his way to back-to-back PGA Championships was truly remarkable and the way he did it was amazing: by setting a new course record in the first round on Bethpage Black. He freely admits that failing never crossed his mind. Brooks has now elevated his game and status to Tiger-like levels. Back-to-back PGAs on top of back-to-back U.S. Opens seems totally unreal. Probably even more unreal is that he won his four Major Championships in only eight attempts and is the only player to win two different Majors on Long Island (Shinnecock and Bethpage).
As the owner of four Major Championships, he stands shoulder to shoulder with Ernie Els and Rory McIlroy who also have four Major Championships to their name. It’s unlikely Els will ever reach five as his career is winding down, but McIlroy can certainly add to his total, and I expect fully him to do so, but now he has a new obstacle in his way . . . Koepka.
Koepka is convinced that he can and should win at least 10 Major Championships and after what I witnessed at Bethpage Black, who can possibly argue with him? Not me, that’s for sure.