NAPA, Calif. – Colt Knost knows exactly where his 2014 season bottomed out.
Mired in an unsuccessful campaign on the Web.com Tour, Knost was a late entry to the Midwest Classic in July. He arrived for the tournament in Kansas City, Mo., late Wednesday night and teed off the following day without a practice round.
“I shot a 78 the first day,” he recalled. “I realized this ain’t – you can’t do this. You’ve got to go to work.”
It’s a familiar refrain for the 29-year-old, whose seven years as a pro have included more ebbs and flows than most players might experience an entire career.
After he won a pair of USGA titles in 2007, Knost was seen as a can’t-miss rising star. That perspective was validated when he won twice during his rookie season on the Web.com Tour, launching him to the PGA Tour. But the success quickly dried up, and Knost has spent the last four seasons bouncing between the two tours.
Knost opened his 2014-15 season with a 4-under 68 at the Frys.com Open to move within two shots of the early lead, and offered candid reflection on the journey that brought him to this point in his career.
“I’ve kind of had this theme before, but I just realized that in the last five years, I haven’t put in the work that I did when I was in college and my first year out on the Web.com Tour,” he said. “I knew that if I wanted to get back to where I feel like I belong, that I needed to get to work.”
Knost was a member of the decorated U.S. Walker Cup team in 2007, a squad that included Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk, Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson. While those players have had great success on the PGA Tour, Knost’s resume is much more pedestrian: two top-10 finishes in 116 starts, with his best result a third-place showing at the 2012 RBC Heritage.
After a worry-free ascension through the ranks to begin his career, Knost admits that he didn’t respond well to the first signs of adversity.
“I kind of took the game for granted, I feel like, when I first turned pro. I mean, everything was just so easy,” he said. “I thought things were going to be really easy, and they weren’t. And I slacked off.”
After Knost’s missed cut in Kansas City earlier this summer – a 36-hour pit stop that he said was “like the shortest golf tournament trip ever” – a return to the PGA Tour seemed like a longshot. But he re-dedicated himself alongside swing coach Randy Smith, and those changes paid immediate dividends, as he cracked the top five in three of his next four starts.
The last in that line of results, a playoff loss at the first Web.com Tour Finals event, ensured that Knost would get his card back for the new season. It capped a remarkably quick turnaround, one that he traced back to his brief trip to the Show Me State this summer.
“I flew home [from Kansas City] and went to work that weekend with Randy, and haven’t played bad since,” he said.
For a player still shy of his 30th birthday, Knost has seen the highs and the lows of the game. The experience has granted him the perspective of a veteran, and it has helped him savor the days when things go according to plan.
“You learn a lot in this game, I think, and I’d say you definitely learn more from the negatives than the positives,” he said. “Confidence is just so key in this game, and I have a lot of it right now. I’ve played well for two, three straight months and it just feels nice.”
The path to the upper echelon is rarely straight, even for the most talented players. Adversity can wear thin a player’s resolve, and poor results can erode his self-belief.
Knost understands that process all too well, but after emerging from his latest valley he finds himself in contention once again on the PGA Tour.
Having hit rock bottom, he believes he’s begun to hit his stride.
“I think we all mature at different times in this game,” he said. “I mean, some people figure it out right away, and some people it takes until they’re 35 or so. I’m 29 now, and I think I’m starting to figure it out a little bit.”