Late one night in December of his senior year, on the way back from celebrating his 21st birthday, Stankowski pulled up behind another car and harassed the driver by swerving and flashing his high beams. The angry driver spun his car around and took off after Stankowski. After a wild chase through the streets of El Paso, a policeman pulled Stankowski over. The cop bought Stankowski's story—he said he was being chased, neglecting to mention that he had precipitated the incident—and let him off after spotting a UTEP golf bag on the backseat. Stankowski's scholarship would have been revoked had he been convicted of drunken driving. "All I wanted to do in college was have fun," he says, "and I was going to have it no matter what lines I crossed."
Nine months before the car chase Stankowski had become a born-again Christian, but living with the golf team was too much of a temptation. It wasn't until three months later, in March, at his brother Tom's wedding—a year to the day after his first religious experience—that Stankowski gathered in a prayer circle, and when it was his turn to pray, he says, "I lost it, I absolutely lost it." He dedicated his life to Christ and quit drinking. Two months later he met Regina, spotting her in church. "It's as if He had a plan," Stankowski says. "Our paths had almost crossed before, in the bad years, call it B.C., before Christ. Her dad lived across the street from the team house. If I had met her before, we wouldn't be married. She wouldn't have had anything to do with me. When I tell her some of the stupid things I did, she can't believe it."
Stankowski is a profoundly changed and happy man now. He bears witness at Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings and has attended two rallies put on by the conservative men's Christian movement called Promise Keepers. "He's a different Stanko," says Mayo, "but then again, he's still the same. We still have fun, but he's not Psycho anymore."
Looking back, Stankowski's not surprised that his college career was disappointing. In his first year the Miners finished second in the NCAA Championship. Despite having three freshmen on that team, they never again even won a Western Athletic Conference title, although Stankowski was the WAC medalist his junior season, in 1990. "We had no discipline, and it showed," he says. "Our priorities were hit it a long ways, rip on each other, make fun of everybody and party. Every practice round was a total bashfest. If we had encouraged each other, we'd have done a lot better."
Stankowski's talent was obvious. At a college tournament in Tulsa he played a three-wood shot from under a tree while on his knees. He cut his ball around the tree in front of him and made it check up on the green, 20 feet from the hole. "It was unbelievable," says Doan, who saw the shot. "He has a knack for stuff like that. He has a whole lot of natural ability and no fear. The physical tools were always there."
The highlight of Stankowski's stay in El Paso was the day he left, in 1991. "My best view of college was driving away from campus the last day and seeing it in my rear-view mirror," Stankowski says. He didn't have anything against UTEP or his teammates. He just didn't care for school. He majored in kinesiology and sports studies and failed to graduate. "I was banking on playing golf for a living," Stankowski says. "A degree was never in my thoughts. I wish I'd done it differently."
He also felt inhibited by the team concept, wearing a uniform and getting to the course 90 minutes before his tee time. As soon as he turned pro, he could do as he pleased, like show up 40 minutes before the start of his round. He felt freer, and his game improved. In his first tournament as a pro, in a mini-tour event in Palm Springs, Calif., Stankowski hit his opening tee shot out-of-bounds. He was five over par after 12 holes—but had a hot finish that included a hole in one—and shot 73. He added a 68 and 66 and finished eighth. "From then on, it was totally different," Stankowski says. "A ton of bricks was lifted off me."
Stankowski served a 2½-year sentence on the Golden State tour before successfully making it through the Tour's Q school in 1993. He had to qualify again in '95 but since then has quickly evolved into a formidable talent, someone capable of winning a major. If not the Open, then at Augusta.
Imagine Stankowski hosting the Masters champions dinner. He laughs at the thought. "I'd make tacos for everybody," he says. "I make great tacos. I'd make them myself if they'd let me."
Care for any hot sauce, Mr. Sarazen? Stankowski laughs again. "Now, that," he says, "would be very cool."