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Jesse Barnsley Q&A


Senior Jesse Barnsley (Albuquerque, N.M./Albuquerque Academy) has had quite a month. After shooting a course record 59 at Tanoan C.C. in Albuquerque, N.M. in August, he claimed his first collegiate victory at the William Tucker Intercollegiate Tournament held Sept. 14-15. Jesse was recognized for his eight-stroke victory at the Tucker by being named Golf World's College Player of the Week. He took some time recently to talk about his golf career with


Q: How did you start playing golf?
A: “A lot of people in my family played pretty much every weekend, and I always had played other sports, like basketball, swimming, soccer and baseball. I went out and played with them once when I was about 12 or 13, and they told me I had a good swing and that I should start playing, and I just fell in love with it. Once I got to high school, I focused on soccer, basketball and golf, and then my junior year I just played basketball and golf. I just tried to improve every year, and once I got the scholarship here, I knew things were heading towards hopefully becoming a professional golfer.”


Q: After playing so many sports growing up, why did you decide to pursue golf?

A: “I think I was drawn to golf mainly because I’m very competitive. I was a pitcher in baseball and a goalie in soccer, and I like that situation where you have a lot of pressure on you and the game can ride on you. Golf is so perfect in that way because the only person you can blame is yourself. There are no excuses. If you play well, you get the credit, if you play bad, you get the blame. It’s just so individualistic. I just really felt like it was about me and I didn’t have to rely on anyone else and at the same time it was fun and new. I caught the trend right as it became really popular.”


Q: What was it like to win the William Tucker Intercollegiate in your hometown of Albuquerque?

A: “It was awesome. It’s always been a goal of mine to win as many golf tournaments as I could in college, and it’s taken a while and it’s been frustrating, but it was good for all of the hard work to pay off in my hometown. I was able to go into the tournament playing well and didn’t let the pressure get to me, so it was very exciting for me and for our team to get the season started that way.”


Q: You shot a 59 recently at Tanoan C.C. in Albuquerque. What was that round like?

A: “I was playing with about 15-20 of my friends, and I got off to really hot start. I birdied my first five holes, I pared my sixth hole, and birdied the seventh and eighth and then eagled the ninth hole and shot 27 on the front nine. That’s when it got into my mind that I had a very realistic chance to shoot 59. On the back nine, I lipped out about 2-3 times and missed a four-footer, but I birdied three of my last four holes. I made a really good par save on the last hole. I got up and down from a bunker and I made about an eight-footer for par to shoot 59.”


Q: Was it really difficult to not think about shooting 59 as the round was going on?

A: “It was hard, but I think it’s really helped me. It’s really hard to get into contention in big tournaments, and shooting 59 is the same type of feeling when you’re under pressure and trying to accomplish something. It felt like I was in a tournament situation. I was very nervous the last few holes and fighting myself trying not to think about what was going on. I think it’s really helped me.”


Q: Why did you decide to choose Pepperdine over other schools?

“I went to a tough high school academically, and my parents have always been big on academics and getting my education, but they’ve known I wanted to pursue professional sports too. I knew Pepperdine had a really good business school and obviously when I came out here for the official visit, I saw the location and the campus is amazing. Also, the golf program is consistently in the top 30 in the country and they seem to always be vying for titles, and they’ve had some great players the last 15-20 years that have been successful pros. It seemed like a really good fit for me.”


Q: How do you feel you’ve grown as a golfer and a person since coming to Pepperdine?

A: “I’ve grown a lot. One of the reasons I wanted to come to California was to be on my own, where I didn’t know anybody, where I didn’t have any ties, and I could just become my own person and try and learn as much as I could about myself and how to be a better person and golfer. Golfwise, I’ve improved a lot. It’s nice to see the scores show it now. I have more shots and more maturity on the course and better control of my swing. I have a lot of confidence now.”


Q: After your senior season, are you turning professional?

A: “Yes, I’ll do it sometime next year. It just depends on how I play this season. If I play well enough and keep it up to get some accolades and exemptions, I might stay an amateur for a little while. If not, I’ll try and turn pro earlier and qualify for some tournaments.”


Q: A lot of people dream of becoming a professional athlete. What does that feel like to know its likely going to happen for you?

A: “It’s awesome because my whole life I’ve been such an athletic guy. When people would ask me when I was younger what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to play pro sports. I didn’t really know exactly which sport, and then I really knew once I started playing golf that that’s what I wanted to do. It’s nice to watch the best players in the world and realize that you have most of those shots. It’s just a matter of experience and being able to have that edge in competitive situations. It’s definitely an attainable goal to make it to the PGA Tour, and I just want to get there as soon as I can.”


Q: Who is your favorite professional golfer?

A: “Tiger Woods. I started following him right around the time when he won the Masters in 1997. I just started watching him around then and I’ve learned a lot from him. I love his competitiveness and his worth ethic and how much of a better athlete he is than everyone else.”


Q: Do you have any superstitions on the course?

A: “I have a ton of things I do that I don’t live by, but at the same time I feel more comfortable doing. I’ve used the same ball marker for a couple of years, a 1972 quarter, and I always mark it tails up. I’ve had the same divot repair tool for a while and I only use white tees when I play in a tournament.”


Q: What’s your favorite golf movie?

A: “I think I’d choose Happy Gilmore over Caddyshack. All the older people like Caddyshack more, but I’m more new age, so I’ll go with Happy Gilmore.”


Q: What’s something most people don’t know about you?

A: “I’m an artist. I love to draw, sketch and paint when I have time. If I’m in the mood for it, I can put together some pretty good work. It’s definitely a hobby of mine on the side.”



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