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Jeff Klauk: Golf's Next Rookie of the Year?

Jeff Klauk is vying for rookie of the year honors after a successful first year on the PGA Tour.

Last year,

Jeff Klauk

seemed in danger of becoming

golf's

"Crash" Davis, the minor-league lifer in the baseball movie

Bull Durham.

Klauk was a college star who won more tournaments at Florida Southern University than fellow alums Lee Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open champion, and Rocco Mediate combined. Klauk, now 31, spent seven seasons on the Nationwide Tour, golf's version of Triple-A ball, becoming one of only five men to win more than $1 million on that circuit.

Jeff Klauk is vying to be the PGA Tour's rookie of the year.

Fast-forward to the 2009 season, Klauk's first as a

PGA Tour

member. He has made more than $586,000 in 10 big-league events. He's a leading contender for rookie of the year honors, but his top goal is to qualify for the Players Championship in May. The

golf tournament

is played on the famed

Tournament Players Club

at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the course where Klauk grew up and his father served as superintendent for 23 years.

Most PGA Tour rookies require a period of adjustment. How did you get comfortable so quickly?

Klauk:

Having grown up around the PGA Tour most of my life, it was a lot easier. I knew most of the guys, and the people at the PGA Tour itself. Being around one of the biggest tournaments the PGA Tour puts on made it easy to get used to. When you get to a tournament, it feels like you've already been there. I was just ready for it all to begin.

What changes have you made to bring about all the recent success?

Klauk:

I've gotten better mentally, and my short-game has also gotten a lot better, thanks to my coach, Cody Barden. I've gotten better and better in all aspects of the game. I'm headed in the right direction, although there's still a long way to go.

You've made a lot of money very quickly. Any splurges?

Klauk:

No, I just paid off the cars and all that stuff, and that's about it.

Who handles your money?

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Klauk:

My

older brother

John does. He works for

Merrill Lynch

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out in Los Angeles. I pay attention to it all. We're laying low right now, given all the stuff that's going on. Just keep putting money in each month and wait until things turn around. I'm a conservative guy anyway. I've been burned a few times. I just want to keep compounding over the years, not do anything flashy.

Does the Tour offer financial advice to rookies?

Klauk:

Charles Schwab

(SCHW) - Get Charles Schwab Corporation Report

does all the Tour's investments, and they have the Schwab people there for you if you want.

Do veteran players discuss finances with up-and-comers?

Klauk:

The guys I know are definitely there for any questions I might have, absolutely, and for other players, too.

2008 U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate is a mentor of mine. I've known him since I was 15. And he's helped me out with everything, from finances to all the other aspects of being out on Tour.

What's the best advice, financial or otherwise, that you've gotten from a fellow pro?

Klauk:

The one that stuck out the most was from my friend Zach Johnson

the 2007 Masters champion, whom I've been friends with for years from our days on the Nationwide Tour. He said, "The

PGA Tour is just golf." There's not a huge difference from the Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour. It's mostly about adapting to all the new things, and I've done a great job of that this year.

Are you focused on winning the rookie of the year award?

Klauk:

It's not one of my major goals. I want to qualify for the Players Championship, and I have a few other priorities. It's all about sticking to the task at hand, staying positive and working hard.

Evan Rothman is a freelance writer living in Staatsburg, N.Y. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Men's Journal and other leading publications.