Jarred Garcia was at a crossroads.
After nearly seven years of playing professional golf, the 31-year-old was unsure how much longer he wanted to keep his dream of playing on the PGA Tour alive. He teed it up in the Advocates Professional Golf Association Tour’s first two members-only events last month in San Diego – and played well, placing third in one of them – but when he got back home to Jacksonville, Florida, Garcia sat down with his dad to discuss his future.
“I told him I’m going to play these next two events and if I don’t play well, I have to figure something else out,” said Garcia, who earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of North Florida in 2013. “I didn’t know if that meant going back to school or getting a job in the industry.”
The first of those two events happened last weekend at PGA Golf Club’s Dye Course in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Garcia, staying at a buddy’s house about a half-hour away to save money, opened the APGA Tour’s Black History Month Classic in 70 before birdieing three of his last five holes and shooting 4-under 68 to win by a shot over Landon Lyons.
“I guess I’m playing the rest of the year now,” said Garcia, whose victory marked his second career APGA title, the first coming in 2019. “This win was huge. It was really, really big.”
Now, the $7,695 first-place check will help Garcia continue to chase the Tour. He plans on competing the rest of the season on the APGA Tour, which has 10 events left on its calendar, including a three-event fall series. Garcia will also get free entry into the Korn Ferry Tour Monday qualifier of his choice, and he also is eyeing KFT Q-School later in the year.
In other words, the dream is still alive. Garcia started out playing baseball as a kid, and it wasn’t until he was 13 years old that he discovered golf. His younger brother, Dalton, was gifted a plastic set of clubs but never was interested in the game, so Garcia grabbed them and started hitting a whiffle ball around the backyard.
Garcia’s grandmother eventually enrolled him in the First Tee of North Florida. While he had a few small-school offers to play college golf, Garcia said the cost of playing at a private school was too much considering he could attend North Florida on a full Bright Future’s scholarship. When he graduated, Garcia initially began studying for the MCAT, but the pull of professional golf was too strong.
“My parents basically said, ‘If you want to do it, you have to do it now,’” said Garcia, who turned pro in late 2014. “I really didn’t think I was good enough at the time, but it’s always in the back of your head, like you hear stories like Tommy Gainey was working at a water facility and made it – you just never know.”
Since turning pro, Garcia has played mostly on the APGA and other mini-tours, while his dad helped out financially by working two jobs and even mowing yards for extra cash. Garcia did earn his PGA Tour Latinoamerica card in 2017 and fired a course-record 63 in the second round of the BMW Jamaica Classic. He got a taste of playing in one of the last groups that Saturday before shooting 76 and going on to tie for 53rd. That would mark his best finish that season as he made just two of nine cuts.
“But shooting that 63, it gives you a little belief that if you can do it for one round, you could do it for four,” Garcia said. “I wouldn’t trade my time down there for anything.”
Some four years later, Garcia is playing the best golf of his career. Part of that is maturing as a player. Another part is finally getting fitted properly for clubs. Garcia bought his previous set of clubs online. They were nice, but something wasn’t right.
“I would notice that I’d hit a 7-iron and it’d go 175 yards and if I hit it just a little bit harder it’d go 195,” Garcia said.
A trip to TPC Sawgrass with some other APGA members last December confirmed his belief: Garcia was playing the wrong clubs. Thanks to the APGA, Garcia was able to get fit for the first time in his career. He was outfitted with a complete set built just for him. He’s really noticed the difference in his irons, which are now fit with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue shafts.
“They feel a bit stiffer,” Garcia said. “I can feel my irons kicking at the same point every time. … It’s easier to control the distances.”
It’s also easier to win tournaments. Garcia’s next chance at victory will come at the APGA Tour’s next event on March 22-23 at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida. Should Garcia win that, he’d really be in the driver’s seat in the APGA Tour’s season-long points race, the Lexus Cup, which awards $35,000 in bonus money to the top six finishers, including $17,500 to first.
That kind of payday would be huge for Garcia.
“On the other mini-tours, you have to beat 150 people to win $3,000,” Garcia said. “When you win on this tour, it’s worthwhile.
“Honestly, without this tour I’m probably not playing pro golf anymore.”
And his dream is still alive.