Russell Knox started the year with no status on any tour. He wound up at No. 12 on the Nationwide Tour to earn his shot on the PGA Tour in 2012, a spot he never imagined when he was toiling away in the north of Scotland and wondering if he belonged.
Knox recalls being selected to play for Scotland in a European junior event in Spain, where he saw Rory McIlroy as a teenager and played on the same team as Lloyd Saltman.
“I remember being on the range thinking to myself, ‘These guys are way better than me.’ Watching them hit it, the sound off the club was different,” Knox said. “That was my moment. I thought, ‘OK, I have to significantly improve from now or I might as well give up.”’
And so he went to work, earning a golf scholarship to Jacksonville University, working at a local golf course and doing well enough on the mini-tours that he could pay his own way as he kept his hopes alive.
Knox, who relies more on accuracy than length, got into the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook through Monday qualifying (he missed the cut), then headed west and tried to Monday qualify at a Nationwide event in northern California. He earned one of the spots, tied for second in the Fresh Express Classic to get status for the year, and won three months later in Chiquita Classic in Ohio.
The highlight was getting a letter from Arnold Palmer congratulating him on his win. Palmer’s design company built the TPC River Bend course on which he won.
“My dad is a huge Palmer fan, and he didn’t believe it,” Knox said.
Knox still has a hard time believing that the Scottish kid who once thought he wasn’t good enough will be teeing it up in Honolulu next year as a full member of the PGA Tour.
“It won’t sink in until I’m on the first tee and the heart is pounding,” Knox said. “I still can’t believe I’m going to have that. I can’t wait for the chance to see if I’m good enough.”