Two strokes. Two strokes in a season during which thousands were swung and executed made the difference for seniors Jordan Hammer and Justin Keiley to reach their ultimate goal of competing at the NCAA Golf National Championship in 2014.
Narrowly missing out on a birth at nationals is not all that senior Jordan Hammer will remember from his senior season, which included winning the West Coast Conference Tournament.
“Being on a team with the guys was the best part,” Hammer said. “Every day was full of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but it was always good to have my brothers on the golf team there with me.”
Hammer said one of the most memorable highlights of his career was winning the conference championship this year.
Hammer recently finished his degree in finance. He hopes to work in either Denver or Phoenix as an internal wholesaler. He has no plans of playing golf professionally and will just compete in amateur tournaments wherever he lives.
Growing up in St. George, Hammer said his dad and brother would often go golfing and would not let him join for the fear that he would slow them down or hold them back. He began playing the game at around the age of 8, and since then he has been hooked.
Hammer credits his father as being the one who has influenced his golfing career the most. They have a strong relationship, and golf further enhanced that bond.
“He was the one that took me to endless tournaments as a teenager that helped me prepare myself for college,” Hammer said. “He’s a very good golfer, and golf has been our vehicle through which we have bonded. My dad has become my best friend because of golf.”
Hammer’s mother was also with him all those years and would walk many long days on the course to support him. His wife has also been a huge support and has allowed him to fully devote his time to do what he loves.
Hammer’s senior year was his best at BYU. He had two top-20 finishes and had an impressive 73.67 stroke average in 2014. Not only was he outstanding on the course, but he also excelled in the classroom, where he was named to the WCC All-Academic Team.
“I don’t think there’s an environment that can be similar to a college golf team,” Hammer said. “It was an absolute dream to play the game I loved and have the best teammates there with me. We came together as a team to work towards a common goal, but we also battled on the golf course each day against each other, which was an interesting but fun experience.”
Teammate Jordan Rodgers looked up to Hammer, not only on the golf course, but off the course as well.
“Jordan Hammer was a good leader on and off the golf course,” he said. “He was always on time to practice, whether it be workouts or golf practice, and he excelled in school. He has a fun personality, so it was natural for him to lead.”
Fellow senior Justin Keiley similarly started golf at a very young age and, as many do, fell in love with the game.
Keiley is from Haiku, Hawaii, and majored in recreation management and youth leadership but said he does not plan to use that following graduation. He hopes to continue working within the golf industry, as a coach or an assistant. He will try to play professional golf but said he would be fine coaching and helping others with the game he loves.
Golf did not always come easy for Keiley.
“When I started to build my swing and started working on mechanics then it became difficult,” Keiley said. “I never wanted to quit, but I have had moments in my golf career when I really wasn’t having fun at all.”
Keiley was recruited by several schools to play golf out of high school and chose to attend BYU because, “I didn’t want to be around drugs and alcohol that is around at every other college.”
Balancing school and athletics is tough for any student-athlete around the country, but for those on the golf team it is especially hard because of the number of tournaments played during the season. Those who travel with the team have tournaments and events nearly every weekend during winter semester, but with the cooperation of professors it is manageable.
“It is very difficult, especially during the winter semester, when I am out of town a lot,” Keiley said. “If you talk with your professors right from the beginning they are all willing to work with you.”
Being a member of the golf team at BYU was not always easy for Keiley. He struggled his freshman year and occasionally wondered if he was cut out to do it or not.
“My whole freshman year I really struggled and didn’t think I was BYU material,” he said. “I didn’t ever think about quitting; I just was really discouraged for a long time, and it took a long time to get out of that funk and start believing in myself.”
Keiley dedicated his time during that off-season to improving his game and saw the immediate impact his sophomore year, when he qualified for regionals despite only playing in seven tournaments. He became a team leader, not by what he said, but by how he played and worked.
“Justin was a leader by how well he played,” Rodgers said. “He didn’t say much and would mind his own business, but he was extremely competitive and always wanted to win, and underclassman and others on the team were able to learn from that.”
Keiley had a remarkable finish to his prolific career as a senior. He placed first at the John H. Burns Invitational after a second-round 66 and finished fifth at the WCC Championships, shooting 1-over par for the tournament. As a result, he was named to the All-WCC Men’s Golf Team in 2014.
Keiley and Hammer both learned a great deal in their time on the golf team at BYU.
“I learned hard work and perseverance,” Keiley said. Hammer echoed that by saying, “Hard work always pays off.”
BYU men’s golf coach Bruce Brockbank loved the seniors and the leadership they provided this year.
“We had a great group on our team,” he said. “The senior leadership was off the charts.”