For a town our size, Owensboro has certainly produced its fair share of professional athletes. From the racetrack to the gridiron, our city boasts several homegrown pros. Owensboro’s newest professional athlete is making a name for himself on the fairways of the Web.com tour. Even though he’s in the middle of the season, 2009 Apollo graduate Matt Atkins took time out of his busy schedule to tell us about his journey to becoming a pro.
OL: How long have you been playing golf, and what drew you to begin playing?
MA: My dad took me out to play when I was really little…maybe around 5. It was something he and I always did for fun but I didn’t take it serious until my 8th grade year.
OL: Did you ever play any other sports?
MA: I played everything growing up. I loved sports and as I got older I stuck with mainly baseball. I played baseball until my junior year of high school where I began to focus solely on golf.
OL: Growing up, did you know you wanted to play golf professionally?
MA: Growing up I knew I wanted to be a professional athlete. That’s all I could see myself ever doing. I loved baseball and basketball and those would have been the first two that I thought I would have played, but when I started to take golf seriously it became my new love and I was committed to playing this game at the highest level.
OL: People assume that professional athletes have it made. Tell us about what it’s really like while you’re trying to move up through the ranks on your way to the PGA tour?
MA: Being a professional golfer brings about so many awesome opportunities. I have been fortunate to meet so many great and influential people along the way, and I’ve gotten to travel all over the country and to different parts of the world. To the onlooker, it does look like a pretty glamorous life. But with all the travel, you miss out on the simple things. Just sleeping in the same bed every night, being in the same town for weeks and months at a time. Everyone wants to get out of town and travel, but when you do it for your career, you realize that having a constant home and a community filled with your family and friends that that is the most important thing. I cleaned out my car earlier this year because I was going to start flying to my tournaments for the majority of the year and it was crazy just looking at my backseat. I had forgotten what my car actually looked like simply as a car. It was a giant suitcase for what seems like forever.
It really is the little things that you notice when your career is one like mine.
OL: Who have been your biggest supporters and influences as you’ve pursued your career in golf?
MA: My parents [Frank and Lori Atkins] have been my biggest supporters growing up and pursuing this career. Most parents would be pretty hesitant when you tell them that you don’t ever want to use your degree and you just want to chase a ball around and hope to make enough money to make a living. My parents supported me from the minute I graduated from college and teed it up in my first professional tournament.
OL: What kind of setbacks, if any, have you encountered along the way?
MA: In golf, you encounter setbacks all the time. We lose far more often than we win. I’ve made steady improvements from year to year ever since I started playing golf seriously so I haven’t had any major setbacks that I can really say have kept me from reaching the highest level right now. It’s a huge process and I’m in the middle of it. God has used every single thing the last 3 years playing professional golf to help me grow and mature to handle everything that I will encounter in the future. If I had it my way, I would have made it to the PGA tour after last year and have already won out there on that tour, but it didn’t happen that way and I just keep working towards getting there and making that happen.
OL: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
MA: There isn’t any one thing that sticks out in my mind that I can say is the highlight in my career so far. I made it out on the Web.com Tour last year through Q School and I was thrilled to get through it again this year because I knew this season would be much better. I’ve had a couple top 5 finishes this year and most people would say that has to be it because that’s the best I’ve finished out here. Or they would say it was the PGA tour event I teed it up in this past November and getting to play with hall of famer Davis Love III, but honestly, my whole career is my highlight. All the great rounds and events and all the terrible rounds and events are the highlight for me. I’m playing golf for a living, that’s enough to be a highlight for me.
Matt currently ranks 11th on the Web.com money list. The top 25 at year’s end are given PGA tour memberships for the next season. Matt ranks 20th in driving distance on the Web.com tour, and has only missed one cut in 9 events played in 2016.