The unorthodox way this New York City amateur prepared for his first PGA Tour event
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For 155 players teeing it up at this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, their preparations for the event looked similar. They played in tournaments, beat balls on the range and dialed in their putting strokes on pristine greens. Routines are key in the world of professional golf, and these guys have it down to a science.
For Will Knauth — the lone amateur in this week’s field — the prep was not so regimented. Knauth doesn’t have the luxury of fine-tuning his game daily. As a PhD student at Columbia University, in New York City, academics consume most of his time. Golf is largely secondary.
“My golf practice routine stopped existing around March,” Knauth told GOLF.com. “That’s when school got kinda tough.”
After winning the 2022 Byron Nelson Collegiate Golf Award, the former Carnegie Mellon standout received an exemption into this year’s field. And even though his competitive golf career now overlaps with his academic one, he wasn’t going to let the opportunity to tee it up with the pros pass him by.
Ever since moving to New York last August, Knauth has been forced to get creative about the ways he practices his game. Whether that be on Trackman simulators at Five Iron Golf, or braving the cold at Inwood Country Club, Knauth has remained dedicated to getting his game in shape for this week’s event.
Ahead of his first Tour start, Knauth chatted with GOLF.com about the unorthodox methods he’s used to get his game in tournament-ready shape.
Play into shape
Range work is a huge part of getting your swing dialed in before tournaments. But with a hefty class load, Knauth didn’t have the luxury of hours a day to beat balls. Instead, he opted to play his game into form.
“I’ve just been playing,” Knauth said. “If nothing else, I know I can get the ball around a golf course and into a hole no matter how the swing feels.”
Embrace the elements
New York City doesn’t have the worst winter weather, but it’s a far cry from the balmy conditions down south that most full-time golfers enjoy. Being a full-time student at Columbia, though, Knauth couldn’t pack up and head to warmer climes, so he embraced the elements.
“I played a lot in crazy conditions,” Knauth said. “I played in a lot of 40-degree temperatures and a lot of wind. It’s not great for trying to shoot course records, but it’s good for practicing holding it together when you don’t know where the ball is going.”
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Get in the flow
Hitting balls on the range might be good for getting your swing dialed in, but golf is played on the course and not the driving range. By playing so many rounds, Knauth has found the rhythm of his golf game.
“It’s let me get comfortable with the flow of how a round of golf works,” Knauth said. “I know it sounds very basic, but making it feel routine to hit driver, pick up the tee, go to your second shot, take a whack at the green, set your bag down by the green, walk around like you normally do, marking your ball. All of those things — it sounds really basic — but it’s nice for that to feel natural and part of the routine.”
Any New Yorker will tell you that playing golf in the city can be a challenge, and you’re unlikely to play your best golf while living there. That’s a fact that Knauth has come to understand, but it hasn’t deterred him in his preparations for this week.
“My game has been better in the past — which is to be expected after a year of living in New York and in grad school,” Knauth said. “But my game has also been way worse at times when I was fully practicing on a full competitive schedule. So honestly I can’t complain with where it’s at. Do I know that I’m capable of being a little bit better at golf than I am right now? Sure. But all things considered, it’s pretty decent.”