In recent years, the unofficial kickoff to THE PLAYERS Championship has been the Military Appreciation Day concert on the clubhouse lawn of TPC Sawgrass, Wednesday of tournament week.
With previous acts such as Tim McGraw, Darius Rucker, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley, the line of talent isn’t a short one for those willing to play in front of some our country’s greatest heroes. And that includes this year’s act, singer Jake Owen.
With chart-topping singles such as “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” “Eight Second Ride,” “Alone With You” and his most recent, “Days of Gold,” you may think Owen has wanted to be a musician his entire life.
But ever since Owen was 12 years old, the Vero Beach native wanted to be a professional golfer. Playing golf became a family affair between his father and fraternal twin, Jarrod. The three played enough that when Jake went off to college at Florida State University, he was determined to become a walk-on for the school’s golf team.
A water skiing accident, however, resulted in a serious shoulder injury, and Owen knew he couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of a professional sport. But in a weird twist of fate, the inability to play golf competitively lead to Owen picking up a guitar and teaching himself how to play at the age of 20.
“When I told my dad I wouldn’t be playing for the golf team, he told me I had to get a job. So I figured learning how to play the guitar and singing in bars was a lot better than a regular 9-5 job,” said Owen.
“It was a little tough starting out on a musical career that late in the game. Most musicians in Nashville know they want to be on stage from a very young age. So while I was playing on a barstool in college, I really had to learn how to play and appreciate all kinds of music.”
“I played everything from the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, Snoop Dogg to classic ’50s and ’60s country, I like it all. I can tell you every word to all of Hank Williams Jr.’s songs as well as ‘Ice Ice Baby’.”
It was expanding his craft across multiple mediums that led to Owen growing in popularity at college. First he was playing in front of 100 people, then 400, and after his song “Eight Second Ride” took off, Owen called his parents and told him he was packing up everything he owned to move to Nashville to pursue his music.
Having their blessing, it wasn’t long before he started landing opening acts for the likes of Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and his now mentor, Kenny Chesney.
“Kenny really helped me out when I first got started. He was always willing to talk with me and offer advice. He knows how to perform his craft the best way possible. He’s a great entertainer and just overall, a great guy. He’s someone I model after in how I approach my career,” said Owen of the close bond.
Though Owen has already seen a tremendous amount of success on stage, he still finds a lot of similarities, and inspiration, between the two industries he loves: golf and music.
“Just like music, playing golf requires a lot of patience and can be very solitary,” he said. “I remember walking the golf course as a kid, enjoying the time to analyze each shot by myself. It’s the same thing with music. I can pick up a guitar and just jam by myself.
“I’m still the same guy; I enjoy playing golf with my friends and hanging out with my family. I just love to make music that people like to listen to. I’m comfortable in playing around a campfire with a bunch of friends or up on a stage. It’s just now, I get to play in front of a few more people.”