Jacob Eklund, a standout prep golfer at Carterville High School, has spent the last two years carving out a nice career at Kansas State.
Two years in and the former three-time All-State honoree and regional winner has built a resume that includes leading the Wildcats with a 73.42 stroke average his freshman season and finishing second with nine rounds shooting even or under par. In his sophomore season, Eklund was fourth for KSU in stroke average with a 74.15. He had two Top 10 finishes, including three Top 20 finishes and Eklund's best finish was a tie for seventh at the USA Individual.
115th Trans-Miss Amateur ChampionshipWhere: Brookside Golf & Country Club - Columbus, Ohio
When: July 10-13
What: A 72-hole, stroke play event that includes 27 of the top 300 players according to the World Amateur Golf Rankings
Now, Eklund has his sights set on Columbus, Ohio, where Tuesday he will tee it up in a field that includes 27 players in the top 300 of the World Amateur Golf Rankings as he tries to capture a championship that includes previous tournament winners like Jack Niklaus and Tiger Woods.
As Eklund has spent a good portion of his summer schedule grinding away on the range at Crab Orchard Golf Course in Carterville, he sat down for a Question & Answer, talking about the Trans-Miss Championship, the transition from high school golf to college golf. Chest-bumping his teammates after the KSU men's basketball team Sweet 16 win and playing alongside two soon-to-be professional golfers.
Question: Talk about the Trans-Miss Amateur Championship and just how big of a deal it is for someone locally to be playing and representing southern Illinois in that tournament.
Jake Eklund: Every amateur golfer knows it's one of the "Big Four" of amateur golf events, you could consider it a Major Tournament in amateur golf and the way to get in is you have to apply and be accepted. I had a decent sophomore season at Kansas State and was able to build up my resume. I sent my resume into the tournament chairman and I guess it was good enough to play in this tournament.
Q: Obviously expectations are to win the tournament, but just talk about the experience of playing in the tournament and what it would mean to you as an individual?
JE: If you don't have the expectations to win every tournament in this sport, you're not going to last; no matter the size of the tournament, you have to go in there thinking you are going to win. It is going to be a good experience. A lot of buddies that I see throughout college golf are going to be there. A lot of High level amateurs and outside of that, some amateurs that are trying to make it professionally. I think for me, it's good to know there's not going to be a single weak golfer in that field and I have to play my absolute best. If I do win, I'll know I beat the absolute best.
Q: You are two years removed from Carterville High School now. Talk about transitioning from high school golf to college golf?
JE: Time management. That's your biggest thing. In high school, you can sit out here at the course and practice for seven hours and not be that serious and still get your work in. In college, you can't do that, you have classes, you have workouts and you have study halls. Plus, you still have to fit practice in there and you have to practice a lot, as well as, homework and studying for tests. You might only have two or three hours a day -- on somedays -- to practice, but you have to make it the most intense two or three hours of practice you can to get the most out of that day.
Q: Do you remember your "I'm at Kansas State now" moment?
JE: I remember my freshman year and about the second week of classes, I was just drowning in homework and I was never a big study person in high school, I could just listen to the teachers and in college, you'll have to study four or five hours for one test -- if not more -- especially being a finance major, so I definitely realized quickly, there is no slacking off, no procrastinating and you have to get your school work done so you can focus on your athletics.
Q: Coolest moment you've had at Kansas State so far?
JE: Probably the coolest moment I have ever witnessed was the men's golf team. We were at a tournament in California and all together in the locker room, when our men's basketball team beat Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and we all just went crazy. It was awesome to experience a moment like that with my brothers and another big thing that I've been able to do on the golf course is I got to play with Doug Ghim (incoming senior at Texas from Arlington Heights) and Dylan Meyer (2018 graduate of Illinois from Evansville, Ind.), two very well known names in the game of college golf and it's cool to learn from them and see how laid back they are. These are two guys I have known for quite a while, just because of their proximity to southern Illinois, but never got to play with and finally in both of their senior years before they turned pro, to do so is pretty cool.
Michael Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois Local Media News Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.