Jacob Roach is the third TFTWNY honoree to show sincere generosity in taking the time to answer our questions. Jacob high-profiled his way to Pebble Beach this year, where he participated in the Pro-Am portion of the PURE Insurance Championship, on the PGA Tour Champions. Roach was paired with Brandt Jobe, a California native who tied for 15th in the professional portion of the tournament. Roach finished second in October’s ECIC championship and will compete in the Section VI tournament in the spring, where he hopes to return to NYSPHSAA state-level competition in June.
1. Tell us who you are and how/when/where/why you started to golf.
My name is Jake Roach and I am 16 years old. I started playing golf on my fifth birthday in the backyard of my Uncle’s house. The two uncles who got me my first clubs and got my interested in the game are still two of my biggest supporters. One of my most cherished memories is when the were in the gallery as I won the Gold Flight of the International Junior Masters this year. It was an incredible experience and the cycle seemed to come full-circle at this moment. They have been with me (along with my parents) the whole time. From getting me my first clubs and teaching me to grip the club, to taking me to my first official round of golf, to playing with me regularly, to having me come down to Florida to play with them in the winter, to attending my tournaments, and helping me pay for equipment and lessons, they have always been there, supporting my dreams. It is incredible to have such an amazing support team there for me; my mother and father, coaches and family members. In fact, my uncle will be attending this week’s 2017 Pure Insurance Championship, where I will play Pebble Beach in an official PGA Tour Champion’s Tour event at Pebble Beach.
2. How did you become involved in The First Tee of WNY? What did you like most about it.
I became involved with The First Tee at age 8. It truly was, at that time, the only way that I could afford to play golf and get instruction. But it really was more. All “advertising” put aside, The First Tee truly did help put in place morals and interpersonal skills that I still use today. It helped me become the well-rounded individual and golfer that I am today. The best part of The First Tee, and why it is such an incredible organization, is because of the people. From coaches to board members to volunteers to other participants, it is the people that makes the program so spectacular. There is such an amazing camaraderie between players, and we push each other to get better. The coaches have played an amazing role in my life, and I attribute my love for golf, as well as the skill that I have developed today, to their mentoring. Thanks to the coaches, especially Coach Patty Jordan-Smith, I have been able to accomplish my goals and stay on the right track towards accomplishing future ones.
3. At some point, you got older and began to help out as a mentor. What kept you around to do that and what did you take away from it?
As I became older, my decision to stick with The First Tee is one of the best ever made. To be quite frank, many players began to dis The First Tee as they became more refined players, saying the lesson plans did not correlate towards their skill level. I still know many of these players, and two stand out in particular. And both of them regret that they left the program because of the bounty of incredible opportunities it provides. As I aged and my credibility increased because of the high level of golf I played, I began to become a mentor for many players. It was always a goal of mine to one day give back to the organization that had given me so much. Again, to be totally honest, I was close to being one of those players who left The First Tee because I believed myself to be superior to the lessons, but there was always something pulling me back. That something was the mentor-ship that older players provided me. One instance in particular I remember was with a participant of our chapter named Greg Sibick. Greg was, and still is an incredible player. He would later be a player at The First Tee Open, and one of the stars of the 2013 week. I remember watching him on Golf Channel in sheer awe. And less than a week later, after he had returned, I stumbled upon him after a class on the driving range. Although it sounds cliche, I was mesmerized. He was out in the pouring rain, he and I being the only ones on the practice tee, striping iron after iron. One in a row, right after another. He must have seen me standing there watching, at age 12. We talked and it honestly was like meeting a celebrity. Two years later, I would play with him in the International Junior Masters. It truly was an inspirational experience, and it has provided me with the motivation to stay with The First Tee and become a mentor for other players.
4. How has The First Tee impacted your life and golf away from TFTWNY?
The First Tee has had a great impact on my life off the golf course. It has helped me build the moral guidelines that I live by and has helped me become the person I am today. It helps me in school and allows me to comfortably interact with adults. On the course, The First Tee has taught me many of the “soft skills” of golf. These include, pre-shot routine, post-shot routine (which I still have not mastered an probably never will) and thought process. The First Tee has given me friends that I would never have had had I not done been a member of TFTWNY.
5. You have been invited to participate in a national summit/event through The First Tee. What do you anticipate you will learn? If you’ve already been, what did you bring home with you?
I was invited to participate in both The College Golf Prep Academy and The Pure Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee. From the Academy I learned that you can not fake it when it comes to being the highest level D1 College Player. It made me realize there is a lot of hard work to put it to become a collegiate athlete. I also gained knowledge in the laws of ball flight and putting science. It was a great week and I will never forget sleeping on the bus every ride home because I was exhausted from the 13 hour practice days. Pure Insurance was amazing. It was just incredible. I was treated as a tour player on every level. Hitting balls next to Fred Funk and Mark O’Meara. Eating breakfast with Colin Montgomerie. Watching my pro-partner Brandt Jobe strip every iron shit every single time. What I learned most though is the price of playing pro golf. The men and women who play on professional tours give up their life to pursue this dream. You have to love golf and love the process to get anywhere near as good as they are. It was an amazing week.
6. What are your future plans for education and golf?
I hope to attend Purdue University to major in a subject that I have not decided on yet. For golf, I hope to become the number one ranked college player in the world, and turn pro after graduating college. But I realized after watching the pros at The Pure Insurance that pro golf may not be my path for life. It was difficult to hear all the pros lament on all they miss at home by being on tour. Graduations, their sons football games, their kids concerts, and many other memorable events. If I had to pick a career I would pursue other than golf, I would most likely strive to be a professor and teach American history.
7. What question haven’t we asked, that you would love to answer? Ask it and answer it, please, and thank you for your time today.
Who has had the biggest impact in your life?
My best friend Brynna. She has had an amazing impact in my life for the last seven months. I look up to her as a role model for everything. She is a perfect example of faith, hard work, and love. She has shown me that there is much more to life than golf, and though it is important, it is not everything. Brynna has shown me that you can truly attain any goal, and still have time for the ones you love. I hope one day I can thank her for all she has done for me. She is truly amazing.
(Images in this interview are property of a variety of websites, including the East Aurora Bee and Neighbor To Neighbor News.)