You and I share the privilege of having attended Stanford and the distinction of being the only students from the university to win the NCAA golf title. Given the commonality of our experiences, I feel that I'm in a position to offer you some advice, and I hope you'll take it as seriously as it is given. My advice: Finish your education at Stanford.
For one thing, doing so would fulfill the promise you made to your parents in August 1996, when you turned pro. Attending classes would also afford you a respite from the pressure cooker into which your success has cast you. Such a respite would not only give you the opportunity to lead something resembling a normal life but might also extend your time as golf's preeminent player. Pundits postulate that the primary threat to your career is back trouble. I think you run a greater risk of burning out. If I were you, I'd use the fall quarters at Stanford—when the Tour season slows considerably—to complete my education.
There is, however, another motive for my advice. You have an opportunity to make a statement to the deluded young people who think that superior athletic ability is all that's needed to live a fulfilling life. They ignore the fact that an insignificant percentage of athletes succeed on the professional level, and of those who do, many are left unfulfilled once their careers are over. By becoming a millionaire almost overnight, you have only added to the siren call heard by so many young athletes.
I offer two role models for you. The first is Chad Hutchinson, the standout Stanford pitcher and quarterback who was offered $1.5 million to sign with the Atlanta Braves after his senior year of high school in 1995. Although his mother, Martha, was struggling to raise a large family, Chad turned down the offer. When Martha was asked about her son's decision, she wanted to know how anyone could trade an education for money.
The other example is Bobby Jones. Before he retired from competitive golf at 28, he had won 13 major championships and established himself as the game's greatest player—while earning a degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech, a degree in English literature from Harvard and passing the Georgia bar exam. What Jones did had a profound influence on thousands of young people, including me.
Even Jones, though, didn't have the same opportunity to affect the lives of young people as you do.
Frank (Sandy) Tatum Jr.