‘Up and Down’ the Iowa Golf Scene – Kinney adjusts to life on tour
Kinney Packages Vigilance, Hard Work in Pursuit of PGA Tour Career
Whether he’s competed at junior golf, high school, amateur or Division I collegiate levels, Tripp Kinney (above left with Chris Baker) has always put full effort into strengthening his golf game. Such dedication and determination have paid dividends as Kinney has continued a pattern of advancing forward at all of golf’s various stages.
Now playing golf professionally, the 25-year-old Iowa State graduate and Waukee native just completed his rookie season as a full-fledged member of the Korn Ferry Tour. Kinney recently sat down with Up and Down the Iowa Golf Scene to share his experiences and future ultimate goal of playing golf on the PGA Tour.
Tens of thousands share this dream, only hundreds achieve it, and the list includes just a handful of Iowans over the years. Kinney’s dream was ignited in 2007 when as a nine-year old he watched fellow Iowan Zach Johnson outduel Tiger Woods to win The Masters. It was bolstered during his freshman year at Iowa State as teammate and friend Nick Voke was preparing to launch his professional career.
“I’ve always held the belief that I could play golf at the highest levels,” Kinney said. “I know my game is good enough, but you have to put everything together for four days, and then keep it going week in and week out.”
Kinney earned playing privileges on the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour by virtue of advancing through the first and second stage qualifying tournaments, then finishing in a tie for 14th in the Q-School finals. The top 40 finishers earn initial status and then earn additional starts throughout the season based on performance. The top finishers on the Korn Ferry money list then advance to the PGA Tour for the following season.
Kinney played in 23 Korn Ferry events in 2022, made eight cuts and earned $33,237 to rank 148th on the money list. His top finish was a tie for 21st at the Memorial Health Championship presented by LRS in Springfield, IL, where he fired a 17-under par 267 total for 72 holes. His statistics were rock solid but underscore the challenge of playing professionally. Kinney’s stroke average was 70.73 to rank 115th, putts per round 30.16 to rank 141st, greens in regulation 70.22 to rank 61st. Kinney averaged 305.0 yards off the tee, and that ranked him 85th in driving distance. His driving accuracy was 67.63 percent to rank 12th, helping him to an overall ranking of 19th in total driving, one of his game’s strengths.
“All things considered, I think it was a successful year,” Kinney said. “Yes, I wanted to finish higher up on the money list, but it was a great learning and growing experience and there are so other aspects of playing professional golf that don’t always have a numerical value attached to it – how to travel, what to do Monday through Wednesday, and who to hang out with.”
He credited fellow Cyclone golfers Chris Baker and Nick Voke for helping with the adjustments and to get ready for the competitive nature of the tour.
“Every course is a bomber’s course,” Kinney remarked about how far he and his fellow competitors hit a golf ball. “People hit it far, extremely far out here. I don’t know if there’s a course we play where it’s a disadvantage for hitting it too far.”
There are also many other adjustments necessary to navigate life on a professional golf tour, mentally and physically. Kinney has worked exceptionally hard on his putting and noticed dramatic improvement over the course of the season. He has also been willing to make some minor swing adjustments in an effort to get better, as well as having sessions with a sports psychologist to get in the best frame of mind possible.
“I’m not sure most amateur golfers understand just how hard this is, and that it is just like having a job,” Kinney said. “I spend eight to nine hours a day, playing, practicing, and working out. You also have to be willing to come out of your shell over the course of a long season and make the effort to strengthen your game or so many other players will pass you by.”
Sessions with a sports psychologist help with the mental aspect of the game and dealing with adversity.
“You can shoot five or six under for 36 holes and still miss the cut by a shot,” Kinney said. “You have to remember that you did not play bad golf and get ready for the next week. It’s crazy how small the margins are out here. With the way they set up the courses and tuck the pins, one foot on an approach shot can be the difference of having a 30-foot putt for birdie or a five-footer. These guys can hit a 210 yard 6-iron that lands softly to a corner pin. What separates the 10th ranked player on the money list and the 200th ranked player is much smaller than you might think.”
Kinney prepared for life as a golf professional by distinguishing himself at the junior, prep, collegiate and amateur levels. He is a two-time Iowa Junior Amateur champion, charted several high finishes at AJGA events and was a key factor in Waukee High School’s state tournament titles in 2014 ad 2015 by finishing second and third in the medalist. He qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur and the U.S. Amateur and captured the 2018 Iowa Amateur title. At Iowa State, Kinney was a four-time academic All-Big 12 selection and participated in four NCAA Regional tournaments. He had 12 top ten finishes at ISU and his 72.65 career stroke average is fifth best in school history.
For now, Kinney is back on the Korn Ferry qualifying school track for 2023, having just advanced through the first stage in Naperville, IL. The second stage is set for the second week in October and the finals are set for early November at The Landings Club in Savannah, GA.
“In the short-term, I will do my best to get back on the Korn Ferry Tour,” Kinney said. “My longer-range goal is to get a PGA Tour card. And to keep getting better every day and master a game that is impossible to master.”
“Up and Down” the Iowa Golf Scene
A regular feature column written by IGA Foundation board member Mark Gambaiana, Up and Down the Iowa Golf Scene is designed to take the reader beyond the headlines and scoreboards to share stories of those who help make Iowa golf so rich and rewarding. Profiles will spotlight those who advance the game through volunteerism, service, extraordinary achievement, competition, human interest and the many other dimensions of golf in Iowa.
Click the links below to read previous Up and Down features
– IGA Rules Official Sean Flanders
– R&A, USGA Champion Gene Elliott
– Nervig Reflects on Decades of Service to The Iowa Masters
– Arseneault Finds Fulfillment in Life’s Next Chapter After Competitive Golf
– Ivan Miller remembers the days of the Minnows