Jared Wolfe remembers where he was the only time in 12 years the thought even came to his mind.
Since turning professional in 2010, he’d always told his dad Alan that he’d know when it was time to hang it up. Never before had there been any doubts. Not through his first four seasons as a professional grinding the mini tours. Not after securing Korn Ferry Tour status for the 2014 season only to miss 15 of 17 cuts, netting $4,912 for the season and failing to advance through Q-School for the following season.
Entering 2015 with no status on the Korn Ferry Tour, he finished T4 at Mackenzie Tour Q-School but made five cuts in 11 starts on the way to an 81st place finish on the Mackenzie Tour money list. None of that shook his faith or resolve.
But sitting alone in Quia, Ecuador after missing the cut in 2017 on PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica and missing his wife, Kelsey, he fired off a text to her that essentially said if something didn’t change, it might be time because he wasn’t having any fun.
“This is stupid. I’m spending time away from you, just giving her that rundown,” Wolfe said. “We all say it, but at that point I’d kind of had enough. I was like this is really annoying.”
Two weeks later he won the BMW Jamaica Classic, a life-changing win that set him on a career-changing season and showed him that the innate self-belief he held wasn’t misguided.
“At that point, that was my first PGA TOUR sanctioned event that I had played any good in and won,” Wolfe said. “I thought the second earlier that year was just dumb luck, but after I won, I thought I think I can play. I can do this.”
He could, and that win has spurred a career-changing couple of seasons that he said wouldn’t have been possible without PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica. He went on to make 13 of 17 cuts that season, including a win and two runner-ups, on his way to a 2nd-place finish on the PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica money list, earning Korn Ferry Tour status.
His 2018 Korn Ferry Tour season proved difficult, though, finishing 131st on the money list with two top-25s and 12 made cuts in 21 starts. But as Wolfe’s proven throughout the last 12 seasons, there’s no quit or doubt in him. He remained undeterred, winning twice on PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica within five events to earn back Korn Ferry Tour status for the 2020 season.
Yet there was a revelation between Wolfe and his wife, Kelsey, that this season was make-or-break. If he didn’t retain Korn Ferry Tour status for the 2020 season, it was time to do something else. With a young daughter at home, Khloe, it has to be worth it for him to be away, and he had come to grips with the professional dream dying if his third try was like the first two. He had friends in medical sales and financial services. He figured he could do that if he failed to retain Korn Ferry Tour status.
“After Kelsey and I talked about it, I was perfectly OK with it. I wasn’t upset, regretting, frustrated or anything like that like I would have been a couple years earlier. I was just like alright we’ll keep playing. I wasn’t really thinking too much about it because I still had that thought that I know we’re good. I know we’re going to be fine. And I’d like to keep playing golf.”
In a search for more consistency in his swing, Wolfe started working with Cory Kaufman, who teaches in Louisville and he’d known since they played a Kentucky Open together when Wolfe was in high school. Kaufman provided a feel for getting more width in his backswing, which Wolfe had been trying to do for years, that clicked. He also introduced him to GravityFit, which helped enforce the feel and which Wolfe still carries in his bag if his swing gets sideways.
It worked. Two events in, he won by four at last year’s The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at Baha Mar – the culmination of a 12-year rollercoaster and by far the biggest professional win of his career. It’s a moment that was so special to the Wolfe family that his father, Alan, a retired police officer, recorded moments from the win on his phone and still watches them all the time. Kaufman, for his part, said he was at home “balling crying” watching it on TV because “you can’t not be happy for a guy like that.”
“It was very surreal. It was confirming. It was a confidence boost, yes, but it was a huge relief,” Wolfe said. “10 or 11 years in the making for that to happen. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that it actually happened.”
Wolfe wasn’t done either. After three more top-10s, he won again, clipping Taylor Pendrith by one shot at the Wichita Open for his second Korn Ferry Tour win, vaulting into the top-five on the Korn Ferry Tour Points Standings.
“The second win was more confirming and more a confidence boost than the first one,” Wolfe said. “The second one was like ‘Holy crap, we got one but now we got two in one year on a Tour you couldn’t barely make the cut on.’ You’re moving up to where you should be.”
Added Alan: “It’s just so neat to see it all come together and have him be right on the verge of having himself a chance to do what they’ve sacrificed and prayed for and led to do to be on the PGA TOUR one day. So, it’s pretty neat, pretty neat.”
Kaufman, a former Nationwide Tour member and mini tour player himself, remembers exactly where he was and who he was with when he decided to hang it up and transition to teaching. He was sitting with Josh Teater, a long-time friend, on the 18th hole at a mini-tour event when he turned to Teater with a heavy question.
“I said ‘Dude, you’ve been through the gamut. You’ve lost sponsors, gained them, played great, played like crap and like at that time of your lowest point in golf, is there anywhere else you’d rather be right now?’” Kaufman asked. “He was like ‘Nope!’ He didn’t even hesitate. I go ‘Really? Nowhere?’ He said ‘Nope!’ and I go ‘Then dude this is my last tournament because other than you and I hanging out, I can think of 50,000 places I’d rather be.’”
For Kaufman, that’s ultimately why he thinks Wolfe pushed forward when so many pros like himself have hung it up, and it’s why Wolfe will be on the PGA TOUR next year.
“For Jared, in my opinion, the love of the game is No. 1,” Kaufman said. “But the innate self- belief that he has for himself is next to none. That guy thinks that he can do whatever he needs to do to get things done, and his love for the game and belief in himself is impressive. And his ability to have fun. So many people turn it into a job and then it’s not fun. The most important thing to him is not golf. It’s his faith in God, and it’s his family.”
It’s that faith, family and love of the game that Wolfe says he always turned to when times got tough. It also helped having a group of financial supporters that have been there with him throughout his professional career and never gave up on him.
“I’ve kind of had this unwavering faith,” Wolfe said. “Kelsey and I are pretty big into our faith, and you know I’ve never felt like there was something else I was supposed to be doing. Kelsey and I were never in need. We were never under extreme financial crisis. I’ve always had support, and we were able to keep it going.”
After the struggle to get to where Wolfe is now, a Korn Ferry Tour winner on the verge of a PGA TOUR card, the three-month COVID pandemic, which resulted in the Korn Ferry Tour going to a Wraparound Season and a year-delay on his PGA TOUR arrival, could have been a frustrating proposition for a guy that’s waited this long to fulfill his dream of his first PGA TOUR start.
But not for Wolfe. He’s got his eyes set on another win this year and the vaunted Three-Victory Promotion, which would result in better status than he’d have had on TOUR this season anyways. If the TOUR doesn’t happen this year, he’ll be just fine with it though because he wants to be able to enjoy his first year on TOUR with the people that him got him there – his family and friends.
“It would have been a weird first year to be out that way to not have my family be able to enjoy it, to not have my friends come out and watch events. It would have a really weird rookie year, so I’m kind of in a way I’m OK and happy that I’ve got to wait a little bit, so that when we come back hopefully everything will be back to normal, and family can come out and we can really enjoy that first year,” Wolfe said. “But believe me I wouldn’t mind winning early and then having the rest of this year to get ready for the 2021 season.”
And when he does arrive on TOUR, his longtime roommate and buddy on PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica and the Korn Ferry Tour, Shad Tuten, his longtime travel roommate and buddy on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica, knows he’ll be ready, stating that he’s never played with anyone who is more “tailor made for the TOUR than Jared Wolfe honestly.”
“He doesn’t really do anything bad. He’s obviously longer than a majority of players, but he’s just extremely accurate. He has a great short game, and he putts the eyes out of it most of the time,” Tuten said. “Honestly, when he does putt it well, he usually ends up winning. He hits the ball so solidly. Outside of the golf course, too, he’s kind of the pro’s pro. His work out regiment, his nutritional drive. It’s just different, and he’s got it.”
Whether it’s in seven months, or maybe sooner, he’ll have that long-awaited PGA TOUR card, too. And don’t think for a second it’s a moment he’ll take for granted.
“Oh man, I can’t deny the fact that I’ll probably be nervous as crap. I’ll be very nervous. Nervous not because of who I’m playing against. It’s just ever since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to be on the PGA TOUR,” Wolfe said. “And that first shot being on the PGA TOUR is something that I’m going to soak in, I don’t care how I hit it. I’m going to have the biggest smile on my face. I don’t care if I whiff the ball. It’s going to be such a surreal moment and an amazing moment because I know it’ll be the start of the next chapter and the next part of our life. It’s not the end, and it’s not where I’m trying to get to. But it’s going to be this unbelievable feeling, I hope. I imagine that’s what it’s going to be like.”