TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Right around the time Brooks Koepka received his award as the European Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 2014, he got to watch as Europe’s Ryder Cup team celebrated its third straight victory over the United States. For Koepka, a two-time All-American at Florida State and a native of West Palm Beach, the image left a lasting impression.“I got to witness that, which wasn’t too fun,” Koepka said in a phone interview with Seminoles.com. “It made me hungry, and I wanted to make this team.”
Two years later, Koepka followed through by parlaying a strong year on the PGA tour into a spot on the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Koepka is one of two rookies on the U.S. team, which will begin match play Friday at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
“In the beginning of the year, I wrote some of my goals down and (playing in the Ryder Cup) was the goal for the year,” Koepka said. “I haven’t won (on the PGA Tour) this year, so I haven’t reached one of those goals, but I was happy to mark that one off the list, making the Ryder Cup.”
Koepka is also the third Seminole golfer to participate in the Ryder Cup, joining Hubert Green (1977, 1979, 1985) and Paul Azinger (1989, 1991, 2993, 2002), who captained the U.S. team in 2008 and led it to its first victory over Europe since 1999.
“It’s cool to have all these connections,” Koepka said. “Paul played in the Ryder Cup and went to Florida State, so it’s pretty cool to have a Florida State player back in the Ryder Cup.”
Four years removed from his collegiate career, Koepka said he still keeps in touch with his former coaches and teammates from FSU. He and FSU coach Trey Jones check in, “a couple times a month.”
They enjoyed a memorable meeting last year in Augusta, Ga.
Jones famously tells all his players that when they play in their first Masters Tournament, he’ll be there to cheer them on.
Jones made good on his promise for Koepka, who finished 33rd in his first Masters, and improved to 16th in 2016.
“His wife and my whole family were up there, so it was cool,” Koepka said. “It was kind of like a little bit of a reunion to see everyone, and we had a great time.”
Koepka will cross another career milestone at Hazeltine this weekend.
Europe has won three straight Ryder Cups, and eight of the last 10 dating to 1995.
But, thanks to an infusion of young talent and veteran leadership, the United State is favored to break that streak this year.
“He’s great to pair with anybody, because who wouldn’t want to play with Brooks as far as he hits it?” U.S. captain Davis Love III told the Associated Press. “…He’s going to add a lot of youthful enthusiasm and a lot of power to our team.”
Although he’s gifted with a heavy tee shot, Koepka credits his time at Florida State with helping him get ready for both the rigors and spotlight of professional golf’s biggest stages.
He won three tournaments and claimed 19 top-10 finishes during his time with the Seminoles.
“Trey Jones did a good job preparing us, not just for golf but to be grown men,” Koepka said. “(How to) show up on time, make sure you present yourself really well.
“And, obviously, the golf schedule that they make, being one of the top programs, you’re playing good golf courses, where majors are played, and you’re playing against the best field.”