Joe Dean, Jake Knapp & Bronte Law: ‘A welcome weekend of smiles for golf’

Joe Dean, Jake Knapp & Bronte Law: ‘A welcome weekend of smiles for golf’

There has not been much to lift the soul in professional golf of late, so dominant have been the storylines generated by the gluttonous tendencies of the LIV era.

But amid the rubble of a dollar-laden but fractured sport, we can still unearth storylines that remind us of special traits that make it such an attractive pursuit to follow for many fans.

It has taken a week when many big names were putting their feet up to provide wholesome stories, such as the delivery driver who landed a life-changing cheque in Kenya and in Mexico a former nightclub bouncer securing a Masters debut.

Add into the mix a welcome return to the winners’ circle for Britain’s Bronte Law and another victory for the Thai potential superstar Patty Tavatanakit and there is a fair bit to celebrate.

A share of second place in the Kenya Open yielded Joe Dean £170,000 to top up regular wages gleaned from driving a Morrisons supermarket delivery van.

The 29-year-old from Sheffield secured playing privileges at Q School but thus far has not been able to afford the travel expenses to fully reap the benefits. That changed by his finishing tied second behind Darius van Driel in Nairobi on Sunday.

Dean told BBC Radio 5 Live the average cost of competing in tournaments is “around the £3,000-£4,000 mark per week”.

While “technically still under contract” with Morrisons, Dean said he has no plans to quit yet, preferring to assess the situation when the season starts to get busier around April.

“So maybe at that point, yeah, I’ll consider handing my notice in,” added Dean.

“I’m quite stuck in my own ways so to me maybe going back and doing the odd shift here and there, it’s not too out of the ordinary.”

Dean qualified for the DP World Tour last year but decided not to take part, as he is not someone who “puts everything on the line”.

“I chose to hang back and try to sort myself out,” he said.

“I had no club sponsors at the time. There was very limited things around that I could fall back on in order to get me there and get me to play.

“So I made the decision not to, which now it seems that was an OK idea.”

The biblical line so aptly borrowed by the late great Peter Alliss when Larry Mize downed Greg Norman at Augusta in 1987 – “And the meek shall inherit the earth” – springs to mind.

It was similarly uplifting stuff on the PGA Tour. Jake Knapp has also struggled and, after falling off the Korn Ferry Tour three years ago, took a job as a nightclub bouncer in his native California.

The muscular 29-year-old American carried out those duties to pay bills but they also rewarded him with a refreshing sense of perspective.

“Standing there at one in the morning every Friday and Saturday night, you kind of realise how good you have it when you get to travel and play golf for a living,” Knapp said during his maiden tour win at the Mexico Open.

“It just kind of gave me some thicker skin and allowed me to get to where I am now.”

The tournament boasted only four players in the world’s top 50 and only 23 from the leading hundred golfers in the world rankings.

But his win still earned an invitation to the Masters as well as entry to the tour’s much vaunted $20m signature events.

Knapp knows who to thank for reaching such heights: his late grandfather Gordon Bowley, whom he would constantly speak to discuss his fledgling career. Knapp has his mentor’s initials GSFB tattooed on his left bicep.

“He was the guy I talked to after every single round. Still text him after every round,” a tearful Knapp said.

“He’s super special to me and my entire family, so I know he’s with me out there and he’s watching.”

While Knapp prepares to head to Augusta, a Masters legend is being credited with helping Law return to winning ways on the Ladies European Tour.

Ian Woosnam, who won the Green Jacket in 1991, has been helping the Stockport pro, who landed her first victory in two years with a brilliant closing 64 in the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

Law played with Woosnam’s trademark aggression to get over the line. “This win feels a little bit surreal,” she said.

“I holed out on 14 from the fairway for an eagle and at that moment I thought there was a chance if I kept making birdies. That was the turning point.”

Law, a key member of the winning 2019 European Solheim Cup team, had not won since the 2022 Aramco Team Series event in London and has been open about a loss of confidence on the course.

“This win represents all the hard work that I did in the off season,” she said. “I really struggled last year and have done a lot of work with my mental coach and Ian Woosnam, who is obviously a legend of the game.

“This proves that when I put the hard work in and when I believe in myself that I can still compete at the very top of my game.”

Tavatanakit’s ability has never been in doubt since her brilliant victory at the 2021 ANA Inspiration.

That major was the 24-year-old’s first LPGA title, and the aggressive manner of her success suggested she would quickly become a dominant figure in the women’s game.

But she had to wait until she won against a strong LET field in Saudi Arabia this month for her next success.

It proved the first of back-to-back triumphs as she added another in Thailand. That LPGA Tour victory came 1,057 days after her maiden title.

She is a charismatic figure who plays a refreshingly forceful game. “I was just foot on the gas,” she said after surging a shot clear of Switzerland’s Albon Valenzuela on 21 under par. “I’m really just proud of myself. I fought really hard.”

It is a brand of golf that makes her a potentially vital global figure for the women’s game. Her victory was another reason to celebrate in a welcome weekend of smiles for the game of golf.

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