CHEYENNE – Getting his amateur status back helped reignite Klinton Krieger’s passion for golf.
The 2007 Cheyenne Central graduate was a “range rat” growing up.
He spent countless hours hitting golf balls on the practice green and driving range at the Cheyenne Country Club.
Those efforts were always felt fun, and never like work.
That changed a little more than three years ago.
Krieger parlayed all that practice into three team and two individual state titles at Central before starting his college golf career at TCU. He spent a year at that Fort Worth, Texas-based school before transferring to the University of Denver.
Krieger started chasing his dream of playing professionally immediately after graduating.
Only the most elite golfers go straight from college to the PGA Tour. The vast majority go directly from commencement to one of a handful of mini tours.
Life on those circuits isn’t for the faint of heart.
There are so many good golfers chasing the dream that the scores can get obscene, and the margin for error is razor-thin. The pressure of paying bills and covering entry fees and travel expenses can be overwhelming.
Golf becomes a job.
“When I no longer wanted to practice is when I knew I needed to be done playing professionally,” Krieger said after carding a 5-under-par 67 during the second round of the Wyoming State Amateur Championship.
“I no longer enjoyed three-hour range sessions or chipping and putting for two hours. You have to do those things to make it to that level. When I had that feeling, I knew I was done with professional golf.”
Krieger spent half his time as a professional traveling Arizona with Nate Lashley.
The Scottsbluff, Nebraska, native is leading the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic at 23-under heading into today’s final round.
This is Lashley’s second season on pro golf’s top circuit. The 36-year-old achieved his PGA dream by catching fire on what was then known as the Web.com Tour – the PGA’s highest developmental tour – and finishing 11th on its season money list.
Achieving what Lashley has requires skill, persistence and catching lightning in a bottle.
“I was good, just not good enough,” Krieger said. “There’s not a lot of difference between (Lashley) and a lot of mini tour guys. You have to stick with it and get hot at the right times.”
Krieger submitted his application to regain his amateur status to the USGA shortly after moving back to Cheyenne. Among the details he had to include were his career earnings and the date of the last tournament he played in. Those items dictate the length of time golfers must go without entering a tournament either as a pro or amateur before regaining their amateur status.
Krieger had to wait nine months, and regained his amateur status nearly a year ago.
“This is my first big tournament as an amateur,” he said. “I’m excited to have my amateur status back. I’m enjoying the game again.”
Krieger is 7-over 151 and is tied for 13th after two rounds at the state am, which is being contested on the course Krieger learned the game.
“I don’t know what happened (Friday),” he said. “The way I played (Saturday) is the way I’m accustomed to playing out here.”
Rust certainly didn’t help.
Saturday’s round is just Krieger’s seventh of the year. He spent the morning working at Wells Fargo Advisors before heading to the Country Club for his round.
It’s not the sort of golf schedule Krieger is used to, but it’s one he is more than happy keeping.
“I just don’t find enjoyment in keeping my professional status to play in little events,” Krieger said. “I’d rather play as an amateur and try to get into some big stuff. There is a whole world of amateur golf that is really fun and really competitive.
“The amateur game lends itself to guys like me who have a little bit of game, but are working and doing other things. You can still get hot at the right time and end up playing in the Masters.”