Golfer Brooks Koepka’s Unusual Path to PGA Tour Stardom
Brooks Koepka ascended to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking during the 2021 season on the PGA Tour, after winning his second major championship. More wins and more majors soon followed. But Koepka’s ascent was unorthodox for a top golfer coming out of college and into the pro ranks.
Unlike most Americans, Koepka began his professional career in Europe. But as soon as opportunities to play on the USPGA Tour opened up, Koepka capitalized, and now he is one of the top handful of golfers in the world.
Fast Facts: Brooks Koepka
- Occupation: Professional golfer on the PGA Tour
- Born: May 3, 1990 in West Palm Beach, Florida
- Education: Florida State University (3-time All-American on golf team)
- Key Accomplishments: 2-time U.S. Open winner, 2-time PGA Championship winner. European Tour Rookie of the Year, 2014; PGA Tour Player of the Year, 2021.
- Fun Fact: Chase Koepka, Brooks’ younger brother, is also a professional golfer. The Koepka brothers played as partners in the 2021 Zurich Classic, a team tournament on the PGA Tour.
Koepka’s Path to the PGA Tour
Playing NCAA golf at Florida State University, Koepka was a 3-time tournament winner, 2-time ACC Golfer of the Year winner, and 3-time All-America selection.
After playing his way into the 2012 U.S. Open as an amateur, Koepka turned pro in June of that year.
But instead of heading to PGA Tour Q-School, as virtually all aspiring tour pros who qualified did at that time, Koepka went to Europe. He joined the European Challenge Tour, the developmental circuit of the European Tour, and won the very first tournament he played as a pro, the 2012 Challenge de Catalunya in Spain.
Playing the Challenge Tour in 2013, Koepka won three tournaments to earn automatic promotion to the European Tour.
With his success in Europe (which included winning the European Tour’s 2014 Turkish Airlines Open), Koepka began getting sponsor exemptions into PGA Tour tournaments in 2014. His success in those events earned him more PGA Tour starts. Koepka performed well enough in those starts to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour the remainder of the year. He wound up making 16 starts on the U.S. tour that year, and finished high enough on the FedEx Cup points list to earn his PGA Tour membership for 2015.
Koepka made it clear he was on the PGA Tour to stay when he posted his first win at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Hitting the Big Time: A Major Two-fer
It was two-and-a-half years from the first victory until his next. But once Koepka caught fire on the PGA Tour, he exploded into major stardom: His next three wins, and four of his next five, were in major championships. In October of 2021, Koepka reached No. 1 in the world rankings for the first time.
His first win in a major happened at the 2021 U.S. Open, where he also tied the tournament record for score in relation to par at 16-under.
One year later, Koepka won the U.S. Open again. He was the first golfer since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to win consecutive U.S. Opens.
Koepka added another major title in 2021, the PGA Championship, and won the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup. Koepka’s 264 winning score in the PGA Championship set that tournament’s all-time scoring record, and it tied the lowest score ever in a major championship to that point.
In addition to reaching No. 1 for the first time in 2021, Koepka also played on his first Ryder Cup team that year. And when the year was over, he was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year.
In 2021, the PGA Championship moved from its traditional August schedule slot to May. So when Koepka won it again, he had consecutive wins in both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship—the first golfer ever to hold back-to-back titles in two different majors simultaneously.
Koepka’s Pro Tournament Wins
Koepka is currently credited with seven wins on the PGA Tour:
- 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open
- 2021 U.S. Open
- 2021 U.S. Open
- 2021 PGA Championship
- 2021 CJ Cup
- 2021 PGA Championship
- 2021 WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Koepka’s majors and WGC wins also count as wins on the European Tour. In addition, Koepka won the 2014 Turkish Airlines Open, giving him six victories to date on the Euro Tour.
Koepka has two victories on the Japan Tour, the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in both 2016 and 2021. He also won four times on the Challenge Tour, the developmental tour of the European circuit, in 2012-13.