Jackson Van Paris impresses on the biggest stage in golf
14 Mar 2024
by Justin Golba of

see also: Jackson Van Paris Rankings

Jackson Van Paris (Submitted Photo)
Jackson Van Paris (Submitted Photo)

Jackson Van Paris of Vanderbilt played in his first PGA Tour event this past weekend. And he got a taste of just about everything.

The Vanderbilt junior finished third in the Elite Amateur Series and earned an exemption into a Korn Ferry event or PGA Tour event. 

That event turned out to be the Puerto Rico Open. It was an easy decision to head to Puerto Rico, although he did miss the Cabo Collegiate with Vanderbilt.

Cabo Collegiate: Arizona State wins in commanding fashion

“My coaches and teammates were really supportive of me going to play, so as much as I hated missing that, it was a really fun week and a cool experience,” Van Paris said.

Safe to say, Van Paris made the most of the opportunity, finishing T10 in the tournament and shooting an astounding 15-under. He shot rounds of 70-70-69-64 and finished just four shots out of a playoff at 19-under between Brice Garnett and Erik Barnes. Van Paris is currently ranked No. 25 in the Golfweek/ U.S. Rankings

However, because Van Paris was in the final group to go out on Friday, he was unable to finish his second round before darkness and had to come out on Saturday morning with three holes to shoot even par or better to make the cut. He was 4-under with three holes left in his round and knew that the cut would fall at 4-under.

“Safe to say I didn’t do very much good sleeping that night,” Van Paris said. “That was a very stressful situation.”

Van Paris added, “Going into the second round, I knew I would need an under-par round to make the cut and that I wasn’t going to finish, so I was going to have to finish in the morning.”

Van Paris was fully aware of the number he needed to play the remaining 36 holes of the tournament. 

“I knew the cut was going to be 4-under just by watching the leaderboards, and I gave myself a chance to make the cut going into Saturday,” Van Paris said.

And with the three holes that he had left, he knew he would have to be mistake-free to get through them at even par or better. 

“Holes No. 7, 8, and 9 is probably the hardest stretch on the golf course,” he said. “I knew it was going to be tough, and I really just tried to work on taking it one shot at a time and not getting caught up in where I was and what I needed to do.”

Van Paris added, “It made the trip much more enjoyable being able to make some pars and play the weekend.

Not only did Van Paris stay at 4-under and made the cut, but he went 11-under on the weekend and jumped all the way into the top ten. He shot a final-round bogey-free 8-under 64 with six birdies and an eagle to propel up the leaderboard 40 spots in the final round. 

“It was one of those days where stuff was going my way,” Van Paris said plainly. 

“I felt like I was playing solid the first three days, but nothing was going close, so I wasn’t able to make a ton of birdies,” he added. “In the final rounds, the irons got a little tighter, and I started to hit some shots close. I did a really good job of not losing momentum. I just got on a heater with my irons and my putter.”

He played both of his practice rounds by himself just by chance, but he leaned on pros Fred Biondi and Joe Highsmith for advice. He also played his first two rounds with Paul Haley and Chan Kim. Since they all made the cut on the number, they played together again in the third round, helping that familiarity. 

He also got some advice from his teammate and roommate Gordon Sargent, who is ranked No. 1 in the Golfweek/ World Rankings and has played in the U.S. Open, The Master’s, and Walker Cup. Sargent won the 2022 NCAA Division I Individual championship

Vanderbilt's Gordon Sargent wins NCAA title on first playoff hole

“I had to borrow his travel case for the plane because he had a Walker Cup one, so I was walking around the airport with a Walker Cup travel bag and felt big time with that,” Van Paris joked.

Van Paris added, “(Sargent) helped me with how the practice rounds work, advice for dealing with first tee nerves and things like that. He gave me a lot of tips and tricks that helped.” Van Paris currently lives with Sargent and teammate Cole Sherwood.

Nick Boulanger caddied for him, a senior at UNC Charlotte, and a friend who caddied for Van Paris at the North & South Amateur and the U.S. Amateur and works at Pinehurst Resort.

Jackson Van Paris earns medalist honors at the North & South Amateur

Now, Van Paris can use the momentum and confidence he gained from this weekend and chase a national championship with the Commodores.

"It does a lot, confidence-wise," Van Paris said about the week. "Everyone on our team knows our goal is to win a national championship," Van Paris said. "Every one of us and the coaches has made that our goal. We don’t shy away from talking about it. That is what we want and what we are striving for."

And he knew his teammates were watching along with how much his phone was blowing up.

"It was really cool to see the support I received from my teammates, and they were following along," Van Paris said. "It made me feel really good seeing that they truly supported me and loved seeing me have success." 

Van Paris added, "There wasn’t any pushback from me playing this event and not Cabo, and that speaks to the team culture we have, and everyone supporting each other." 

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