Jake Owen is a renowned country artist, but he can hold his own on the golf course too. He carries a 3-handicap and is paired with Jordan Spieth at this week’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Owen sat down with GOLF.com to share his best Spieth stories and why he fell in love with golf as a teenager.
You’ve played the sport since you were a little kid – and won your first tournament at 15! Where did that skill come from?
My dad was a great player growing up. Like any son, you always want to follow in the footsteps of your father. My granddad is a great golfer, my uncle is a great golfer, so golf’s been something that’s been instilled in me since I was a child.
So did you just pick up a set of clubs and go with it?
Yeah, my dad cut down a set of Titleist Tour model blades when I was a kid, which looking back on it, when you take an already stiff shaft and cut it down shorter for a kid and then put a blade on the end of it, they weren’t the easiest clubs to hit. [Laughs] But I guess it made me better and I loved it. To me, golf was always something I could play by myself after school, or walk and play with older gentlemen and women that were doctors, lawyers, contractors… doesn’t matter what they do. I just remember as a kid being able to learn from a lot of older folks about the values of life outside of golf. I think that’s what I always loved about golf, the kind of people it would surround me with.
That’s true. And you decided to pursue a career in music after that wake boarding injury you suffered all of those years ago, but since then you’ve had an opportunity to play with a whole bunch of interesting people, including a somewhat popular guy on Tour right now, Jordan Spieth.
Yeah, we have a great friendship. He’s a great kid. We’ve known each other for quite some time and we got paired together our first years at the AT&T [Pebble Beach National Pro-Am] about four years ago. Obviously he was a great player coming out of college and as a junior player, but he hadn’t really proven himself as a player yet on the PGA Tour. To be able to return this year with Jordan as the Masters and U.S. Open champion, and him having won as many tournaments as he’s won, I’m so proud of him.
He came down and played in my charity event in my little hometown of Vero Beach, Fla., and couldn’t have been more of a gentleman. Everyone in my hometown was just so excited to not only meet Jordan Spieth and be around him, but they complimented me a hundred times on how great of a guy and a well-mannered young man he really is.
So have you had another chance to play with him since and maybe get a few tips? Or have you offered any singing tips to him as a professional in your field?
[Laughs] He actually got up at my charity event and sang a song with me, which I thought was pretty cool. I think I kind of put him on the spot. But no, I haven’t gotten too many tips from him. I’m not afraid to ask, considering he is one of the greatest, and I could use a couple putting lessons I think.
Would you have still pursued the sport had you not had that injury, or would you have found music anyway?
I don’t know. I think looking back I probably would have just continued to golf, that’s why I’m still playing it. I love it so much. It’s something that I really enjoy, but I’m happy the way life worked out. I think things happen in life you can’t really ever understand or explain and this is definitely one of them.
Well, you’ve got a 3-handicap so that’s pretty impressive. How did you come back from injury?
I can’t say I got back to where I was…being a 3-handicap is not really a highlight of my day. I mean, it’s not a bad thing, but as a kid I played to scratch or below. But when you don’t play and you spend a lot of time on the road, I can still get a round in and play ok. I can shoot 68 or I could shoot 88 [laughs], it’s one of those things.
You played the Diamond Resorts Invitational Benefitting Florida Hospital for Children recently, and take part in a lot of charity events. Tell me some of your favorites.
That was a great event. I think being a Floridian myself, it was special to come back and do that. I like playing in all kinds of these events. I really enjoy playing at Pebble Beach, which benefits The First Tee. I just really enjoy being able to use the platform that I’ve been given to not only help people out but also be able to do things that I love, and I think that’s what makes it really worthwhile to me.
Your country music career has taken you all around the world. Do you have a chance to play when you’re on tour, and do either your game or singing suffer if you focus on the other?
I don’t take golf too seriously anymore unless I’m going out to play in these tournaments. Every now and then I’ll sneak out during the day and try and go play, because to me it’s something that gets me away from the hustle and bustle of the day to day scene out there on the road, but I probably should play a little bit more than I do if I intend on keeping a decent game going for some time.
Out of all the places you’ve played, do you have a favorite?
I play the Golf Club of Tennessee when I’m back in Nashville, that’s my home course, I’m a member. When I’m down here in Vero Beach, Fla., I play at Vero Beach Country Club and Indian River Club, both places that I grew up playing when I was a kid. It’s really nice to be able to come back and play those places.
What’s the best score you’ve ever shot?
The best score I’ve ever had was a 64 [at his home course in Vero Beach].
Nice! And the worst?
Shoot, I don’t know, I try to forget those. [Laughs]
Come on! One of your worst shots then?
Ok…I was tied for the lead the first round of the Western Junior up in Gaylord, Mich., back in the day. I was actually tied, I believe, with Hunter Mahan. I was about 6-under that day. The last hole was a par-3, and I’d hit it so good all day. I hit it on the back of this green that was sloped from back to front…and I 7-putted.
[Laughs] The way that the hole was sitting after putting together a 6-under round coming to the last hole, I literally 7-putted. I was scared to get it to the hole, so I left it short. And then I lipped it out about another four or five times after that. My dad was caddying for me, and to this day he still blames himself for it. I told him it was just my nerves, being a kid and knowing that I was in the lead, so…it wasn’t too bad when I got to walk up to the scores after making a seven: I still shot 2-under.
Did you ever follow up with Hunter about that day, when you might have beat him?
No, I never have. I don’t know Hunter very well. Maybe one day if I see him I’ll be able to tell him.
How about your best shot?
I’ve never made a hole in one, but I’ve made two double-eagles. And both of those were probably my best because they were hit with 3-woods, and to make a shot over 240 or 250 yards with a 3-wood is a pretty awesome shot.
So what’s on the docket for you now, both in music and golf?
I’m working on a new record right now that will be out in the summer time. I’ve got a new single coming out called ‘American Country Love Song’ that will be out in March. Other than that, just gearing back up for another great year, staying busy and working on just stepping up the ladder a little bit. I’m a person that’s very competitive – I think that goes back to the golf as well. I’m not content just consistently going through the motions and going with the flow. I always need to work a little bit harder in order to make the following year better. That’s just the way I’ve always been.
Can you draw any parallels to life in golf and life in country music?
Golf is something that is a true sport of patience and of understanding yourself. What I mean by that is, really understanding how to control your emotions and also elevate your confidence. Those are all things that, I believe, parallel life in general, to know yourself better and to know how to handle yourself in pressure situations in life. In golf, it’s just about you and the course, and you can’t blame it on anyone else. You make the bad shot, you gotta own up to it and hit a better one on the next shot.
Great advice. Who is in your ideal foursome, and where are you playing?
My ideal foursome would be my dad, my twin brother and my granddad, playing St. Andrews together where golf originated. To be able to do that before my granddad’s not around anymore…we’ve always talked about trying to get over there, doing that one last time. I really hope I can do that.