Doyle earned a partial hockey scholarship to Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., and he became a Division II honorable mention All-America defenseman. He also made the golf team but didn't get much chance to test himself because Norwich played a weak and limited schedule against other Vermont schools. After graduating in 1971, Doyle had little opportunity to play golf for the next 15 years. Saddled with an ROTC commitment, he served as an Army Signal Corps officer in South Korea and at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga. After that, there were too many demands in his job as a production manager for Milliken textiles in Alma and LaGrange, Ga.
But deep down, Doyle still loved golf, and he often caught himself wondering just how good he could be. To pursue his dream, Doyle in 1984, at age 36, became the manager of the American Legion's public golf course in LaGrange. He also bought a vacant mobile home lot on the south side of town, threw down some grass seed and opened up a driving range dubbed Doyle's Golf Center. "I fished balls out of the lake at the American Legion and striped 'em," Doyle says.
Every day after work and on weekends he would play a scramble with his buddies—he always played his own ball—and he worked on his short game at the golf center. He would walk along the fences and hit balls back into the middle of the range. "Why should I hit 200 more balls out into the range?" Doyle asks. "I'm the guy who has to pick them up." He earned a reputation for being a gritty and, at 6'3" and 210 pounds, formidable competitor. Doyle despised losing, and after bad shots he would erupt into temper tantrums, swearing at himself under his breath.
Doyle became so enraged after blowing the lead in the third round of the 1988 Southeastern Amateur that he was almost inconsolable. When he returned home that evening, he stormed into the backyard and, illuminating the area with the headlights of his pickup truck, began building a pool house. The next day Doyle birdied the first three holes and won the tournament in a playoff.
"Allen never, ever gives up," says his wife, Kate. "It doesn't matter where he stands in a tournament, he's never out of it until it's over. He's a perfectionist. The first thing in the morning and the last thing at night, he's strengthening his hands, squeezing his hand grippers. He'll do anything to be the best."
Doyle was selected for his first Walker Cup team in 1989 but couldn't play because of a herniated disc in his back. After recovering from surgery, he became a force to be reckoned with on the national amateur scene. In the five years from 1990 to '94, he never finished out of the top 10 in any of the 20 or so tournaments he played each year. Doyle says the only time he has come close to choking was in the World Amateur in Versailles—"The tournament was riding on every shot; it was oppressive"—and it was his ability to withstand that pressure that convinced him he was ready to turn professional. He had already won every major amateur championship except the U.S. Amateur, and chasing that title wasn't worth forgoing the chance to earn the money to send his two daughters to college. Erin, 16, plays number 2 on the Troup High boys' varsity golf team in LaGrange, and she's ranked fourth in her class. Michelle, 15, is number 4 on the Troup team and an A-minus student.
There was also another motive behind Doyle's decision to turn pro at age 46. He wanted to gain a competitive edge for the Senior PGA Tour, which he'll be eligible for when he turns 50 in July 1998. In February, Doyle took out a $25,000 loan to bankroll this rookie season, estimating that it will cost about $40,000 to play in 18 Nike Tour events as well as the five PGA Tour events he can enter using sponsor exemptions, including this week's BellSouth Classic in Atlanta. His goal for the year is to finish in the top 10 on the Nike Tour, which would qualify him for the 1996 PGA Tour.
After his impressive start, is Doyle kicking himself for not turning pro years ago?
"I look at my wife, my daughters, the friends I've made, and I wouldn't change a thing," says Doyle. "Too many marriages aren't together and too many kids are screwed up because of the PGA Tour. Those golfers have more assets than I have, but they're only monetary.
"I've come a long way from racing around Ponkapoag. It hasn't been an easy journey, and it's been a twisting, turning road. I'm going to enjoy my success while it's here, but the only way to ensure I stay successful is to keep my feet on the ground."