Sparta (Mich.) native and nationally recognized golf instructor Jackson Koert is at the Masters this week. The 32-year-old Koert, who was a standout golfer locally at NorthPointe Christian HS, is part of the “player support” team for Ben Carr, a Georgia Southern University college player, who qualified for the Masters due to his runner-up finish at last year’s U.S. Amateur.
“I arrived here late Sunday and have been on the course each day with Ben and his swing coach Tony Ruggiero,” said Koert, the Director of Instruction at Atlantic Beach CC near Jacksonville, FL. “But actually I’ve been working with Ben at Georgia Southern in Statesboro, Georgia, during several visits with him leading up to the Masters.”
Koert mentioned, in particular, the practice green at Georgia Southern’s golf course. “Because of its fast and undulating slopes, it’s ideally suited for Ben to prepare for Augusta National. He’s worked hard on that aspect of his game since the Masters’ greens are so challenging.” Koert explained he primarily works with Carr on his short game: chipping, pitching, bunker play and putting.
Koert was introduced to Carr three years ago through his relationship with Ruggiero, a top-ranked golf teacher from Mobile, AL. Ruggiero is Carr’s swing coach.
“Tony has been a tremendous mentor for me and has been invaluable in advancing my teaching and coaching career,” said Koert. “I worked at one of his academies in Alabama for three years. He’s an excellent teacher and has been instrumental in many of his students’ success on the PGA Tour. In fact, three students of his at one club all made the Tour. Smiley Kaufman has been a student of Tony.” Koert mentioned Kaufman played in the final Sunday pairing with Jordan Spieth in 2016.
As with many aspects of Augusta National and the Masters, there’s a long list of protocols for the “player support” team for Carr.
“Oh yes, we received several emails before the Masters spelling out to Tony and me “the do’s and don’ts” of our presence here,” said Koert who was named in the March issue of Golf Digest as one of the “Best Young Teachers in America.”
“Unlike the PGA Tour or the Korn Ferry Tour where I’ve worked with players, the Masters has explicit guidelines for how Tony and I work with Ben. For example, on the range there can only be Ben, his caddie and just a single instructor at any one time,” explained Koert. “So that means when Tony and Ben are working on the range, say with his long game, I have to wait elsewhere until Ben goes over to the chipping or putting green, Tony must drop out, and then I take over.”
After graduating from NorthPointe Christian where he was a two-time state finals medalist, Koert attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. “It’s a tremendous school and my golf game really developed while on the team. Playing year-round made a big difference.”
After graduating from Embry-Riddle, Koert focused on a coaching and teaching career and eventually ended up meeting Roggerio.
“I’ve been very blessed in my coaching journey,” said Koert, “to meet someone like Tony.”
When asked to describe Carr’s game, Koert said: “He’s an all-around solid player, known for his ball-striking skills. He has a very strong grip and the club face is shut at the top but he’s an accurate driver and hits it long.”
Leading up to his first round on Thursday, Carr played practice rounds with former Masters champ Larry Mize and PGA Tour player Russell Henley, all natives of Columbus, GA.
And he played in the Par-Three contest on Wednesday with his brother on the bag.
For his first two rounds, Carr is paired with former Masters champ Bernhard Langer and Chilean Mito Pereira who plays on the LIV Tour. On his bag for the tournament is local club caddie Donald Cooper.
“Ben is in good hands with ‘Coop’ who’s so familiar with Augusta National and its demanding greens.”
Koert feels Carr is well-prepared and handling his nerves well for being a first-timer at the Masters.
“He’s a gamer.”
Being one of the elite golf teachers with an inside seat at the Masters, Jackson Koert is a gamer, too.
Images courtesy of Jackson & Tom Koert