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Am Tour: San Diego's Jason Meijers working overtime to perfect his game

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Jason Meijers  - 

So you've thought about playing golf for a living? How much do you think you'll need to practice?

Every day after work?

Twenty hours a week?

Not even close.

Try quitting your job and making golf practice your fulltime occupation. And that'll only work if you have talent.

That's what 24-year-old Jason Meijers has going on right now. Meijers, who lives in San Diego and recently earned a business degree from the University of Southern California, is taking his shot, and he's in full pursuit. What's amazing, though, is that Meijers, who is playing in the Championship flight this week at the Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship, didn't play college golf and 18 months ago was a 10-handicap. Now he plays to a plus 2. He'll be the first to tell you that making that kind of improvement doesn't come easy.

"My head pro told me that I can't take days off," Meijers said. "He told me, 'You need to be playing every day, every tournament you can get into. Even if you're sick, you need to be putting."

So for the past year, Meijers has done exactly that. He practices and plays pretty much seven days a week, seven to nine hours a day and works with a Titleist Performance Institute trainer.

This year, he's played in around 20 events on the Golf Channel Am Tour. Over the summer, he fired several rounds around or better than par to finish near the top of the leaderboard.

"Because I didn't play college golf, I'm looking to gain that tournament experience that I didn't get in college," said Meijers, who also plays in every USGA and Southern California Golf Association event he can get into.

This journey really began a little over a year ago when his father, Neville Meijers, a senior VP at Qualcomm, made a generous offer. Seeing the potential in his son's game (he had already started to improve from the 10-handicap and played high school golf), the elder Meijers asked his son how good could he get. If he heard the right answer, he would offer to sponsor his quest to become a professional player.

"I thought he was joking at the time," said Meijers, who was born in South Africa, but has lived all over the world because of his father's career. "I just kind of laughed it off."

But a couple of months later, the father repeated the question. Jason thought about it for a minute and told him, "If I did this (practice) every day, I could probably get pretty far with it."

And so here we are.

For the past year, Meijers has worked with teaching pro Derek Uyeda at Grand del Mar Resort in San Diego. They work on everything, of course, but if you were thinking the short game is what separates handicap players from elite players, think again.

Truth is it really is about ball-striking. Once you become a plus handicap, great putting or pitching separates the elite, but to get there, forget about the "drive for show, putt for dough" adage. If you can't drive the ball well, you won't make it to scratch, much less a plus handicap.

"I went from a 10 to a 3 in one or two months, just straightening out that driver," Meijers said. "Because once you start avoiding O.B. or the hazards, you start shaving off those strokes."

And you'll also avoid the big numbers, which is critical. Players just can't make enough birdies to negate two or three double bogeys.

Meijers knows that firsthand. After a 71 on Tuesday on the North Course at Talking Stick, he followed with a 76 on the South Course, a round that included two doubles. He's now tied for 15th. 

"Those are the big numbers you have to avoid," said Meijers, who averages about three or four birdies a round. "It's just getting rid of those mistakes."