SI Vault
Jim Gorant
February 09, 2004
Raised in Phoenix, Jonathan Kaye grew up in Scottsdale
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 09, 2004

West Side Story

Raised in Phoenix, Jonathan Kaye grew up in Scottsdale

View CoverRead All Articles


17th at Sawgrass
Frat party on a subtle hole that's transformed by water.

16th at Scottsdale
Frat party on a mediocre hole that's transformed by beer.

Arnold Palmer
At 74, he made $140,000 and had a seven-footer on 18 that would've won the senior skins.

Lee Trevino
Skinless and whining about a sore hip, the not-so-merry Mex, 64, acted old and cranky.

Jonathan Kaye
Self-taught Kaye wins the FBR Open, poking a hole in the swing-guru-as-genius theory.

Butch Harmon
Tiger officially axes his coach, poking a hole in the swing-guru-as-genius theory.

"CUDDLY" IS NOT a word many would use to describe Jonathan Kaye. Brash, yes; different, certainly; misunderstood, maybe.

Take for instance this brief exchange, from a press conference after the third round of last week's FBR Open when Kaye and Chris DiMarco sat one shot ahead of Phil Mickelson. "There are so many big names on the leader board, guys who have won majors and won here," Kaye was asked, "do you feel like there hasn't been a whole lot of attention paid to you?"

"Yeah," Kaye groused, ignoring the question. "I didn't see any major winners on the top of the leader board." O.K., Jonathan, nice chatting with you, and can someone get Phil a cold compress for mat bloody nose?

Certainly, all of Kaye's scrappiness and grit were on display as he shot a four-under 67 in die final round, outdueling DiMarco and Mickelson to win by two shots, with an 18-under 266. Kaye may have been prickly at times, but the FBR win, taken alongside his breakthrough triumph at last year's Buick Classic, illustrated the 33-year-old Phoenix resident's growth.

Kaye's reputation as a muni-bred hothead who doesn't fit the country club stereotype got a full airing in me February issue of Golf Magazine, which explored everything from his on-course shouting matches to his 2002 suspension for allegedly sassing a locker room security guard. Kaye contends that the article, as well as his performance in the FBR, are all part of an effort to bury the past.

"Yeah, I wanted to put that all behind me," Kaye said on Sunday evening as he stood under a jumbo screen broadcasting the Super Bowl to a still partying swarm at the TPC of Scottsdale. "I was shutting the book on all that stuff."

Even Kaye's wife, Jenny, a former Futures tour player who also caddied for Jonathan early in his career, sees a difference. "He's figured out there are more ways to make birdie than hitting at the hole as hard as you can every time."

Kaye's improved course management—as when he played an iron off the tee at the drivable par-4 17th on Sunday—is a sign of his less abrupt approach to all things, a refinement that threatens to make him downright huggable. In fact, as Kaye walked off after his win, Craig Vogensen, Kaye's coach from Sunnyslope High in Phoenix, burst through the ropes, gave him a squeeze and shouted, "I'm so proud of you!"

There's no sign, though, that Kaye is ready to assimilate. Asked if he might now move to a nearby gated community that's popular with other Tour players, Kaye sneered defiantly, "I'm straight out of Phoenix, baby. West side."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]