By Jake Parker
I started learning to play golf when I was 10. My father was my coach, my practice partner, my playing partner, my mentor, my financier, and my ride to the golf course. We studied the game together. Every aspect: the swing, the players, the equipment, etc. At that time, my father became my toughest competitor. We competed through my teenage years and then into my 20s. My game, through his help, developed, and I began to finally conquer my goal of winning against my father. My father and I also had many discussions about me becoming a professional golfer.
In college, I was on the University of Montana Tae Kwon Do team. While representing the University of Montana, I won a gold medal at New York University, a silver medal at UC-Berkeley, and a bronze medal at Princeton. This led me to opening my own Tae Kwon Do school, where I have spent the last 20 years developing athletes and passing along what was given to me. I played golf recreationally, played local tournaments and enjoyed every round that I could with my dad.
My father passed away on June 7, 2020, at the age of 70. This was a turning point in my life. Although I had accomplished every Tae Kwon Do goal from medaling at state, to U.S. collegiate nationals, to U.S. nationals, I had not begun to accomplish any of the golf goals my father and I talked about, and this weighed on me. Through patience and prayer, Jason Miller, a USGTF graduate and a member of the Ranch Club in Missoula, Montana, entered my life. He sent an email to the general manager, Nick McKethen, asking and explaining that he had a student that was preparing for the USGTF and the playing ability test, and asked if there was any way he could help out. His response was, we are very excited for him and he can access the golf course Monday-Thursday and play two 18-hole rounds in exchange for coming out to the golf course twice a week to chip balls from the fescue back into the driving range and drive around fixing ball marks on the greens.
My first day at the Ranch Club did not include chipping golf balls from the fescue back into the driving range or fixing ball marks on the greens. Rather, I helped set up a tournament, taught two junior camps with Mike Barnett, a Montana PGA hall of famer, then wrapped up the tournament. At the end of my first day, I was officially hired as an employee at the Ranch Club and have been there for the last 2 1/2 years.
When I graduated from the USGTF November 12, 2021, I was offered a teaching position at the Ranch Club. I accepted gratefully, and since then have been involved in coaching private lessons, junior camps, ladies fundamentals (including to my wife, my general manager’s wife and our head pro’s wife), Special Olympics athletes, and the Loyola High School golf team. After teaching my first golf lesson, I knew I couldn’t wait to teach my next!
I am blessed to have a very supportive wife, Alicia, and son Jackson, who hold me up and encourage me! They also have a passion for the game. On days when I am not coaching Tae Kwon Do or golf, we loop as a family. We share personal goals and we all help each other achieve them.
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