Located in the heart of west Phoenix is the Grand Canyon University Golf Course. If you walk around the venue, you might find the general manager, Jesse Mueller.
What you may not know about Mueller is that last year, he appeared in the PGA Championship, one of the prestigious four major events in all of professional golf.
But Mueller isn’t a professional golfer. In fact, he stopped playing consistently in 2014. But that doesn’t mean that he quit playing altogether.
So how did he qualify for the PGA Championship?
Mueller qualified by finishing in the top 20 in last year’s PGA Professional Championship, a tournament is for golfers who are PGA certified teachers of the game. Actually, he won that tournament by five strokes last year in Austin, Texas.
He’ll be defending the title when this year’s tournament takes place April 30 through May 3 at the Twin Warriors Golf Club in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico.
Mueller, who is in his eighth season as a volunteer assistant for GCU’s men’s golf team, has the teaching certification and has played in qualifiers across the country.
“I drove (the ball) really well,” Mueller said, recalling last year’s win. “I was able to keep it in play. and when I did miss some greens, my chipping was really good, so I was able to eliminate a lot of mistakes.”
Mueller had a five-shot lead over the field after the third round and closed it out in the final round.
The PGA was Mueller’s second major appearance. His first was at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Mueller didn’t make the cut in last year’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but he savored the experience.
“It was an awesome experience to be able to play on those type of courses,” he said. “Those things are planned years in advance, so to be able to play on that type of championship golf course with that field and to play against the best players in the world was a great experience.”
Mueller believes preparing in Arizona could help him in New Mexico.
“It’s high elevation,” said Mueller. “Getting used to playing in that elevation with how much farther the ball goes there, that’s definitely going to be a change. Being here in Phoenix, I will have less of an adjustment than folks coming from California or Florida.”
One other advantage Mueller has is his caddie, who just so happens to be his wife of 13 years, Jessie. Mueller says that having her by his side helps him be more comfortable in tournaments.
“She’s been there with me in big moments,” said Mueller. “She is someone who I feel very comfortable caddying for me, I can’t be more comfortable with anybody else. (She) helps me stay comfortable heading right into the event.”
While there is a strong field in the tournament every year, winning the tournament twice isn’t unheard of. There have been six repeat champions of the PGA Professional Championship, the most recent being Omar Uresti, who won in both 2017 and 2022.
Three have won it in consecutive years, with Roger Watson first pulling off the feat in 1974-75, followed by Larry Gilbert in 1981-82 and the most recent being Mike Small in 2009-10.
Mueller understands how tough it is to win again and knows that his win last year was something special.
“Being able to win last year was definitely something I don’t take for granted,” said Mueller. “It’s hard to win golf tournaments, and to win with that type of field was a great experience.”