Golf is all about decision-making. Choose a club, make a swing and take the consequences. The feedback is immediate. In the real world, however, things can get more complicated.
Despite four one-year stints on the PGA Tour, plus two Nike tour seasons and three Nike wins, I was never able to keep my Tour card. So last year, after my wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to our daughter, Shannon, and I heard that the men's coaching job at Wake Forest was open, I threw my hat in the ring. Simple, right?
It wasn't so simple the night athletic director Ron Wellman called to offer me the job. Accepting would mean the end of my competitive career. I'll admit it, I cried. I was 34 and felt I had some game left in me. I walked Elizabeth out to the garage and asked if she would still love me if I was no longer the almost-famous golfer she had married. We both cried, then we got brave and told each other it was the right decision for our family. We hugged for a minute, then I picked up the phone and took the job.
It's amazing how much smaller life's mountains can look in the rearview mirror. Last week, while getting my team ready for the NCAA regionals, I realized that my years on Tour had taught me to cope with adversity. It was less than a dream season for us—we didn't make it out of the regionals—but we all did some growing up. Yes, I miss the thrill of playing for money against the best golfers in the world, but now I shoot for a different thrill: having an impact on a young athlete's life. I was a Wake Forest freshman when my dad died of cancer and our coach, Jesse Haddock, filled that void for me. Lately I've been thinking of something he told his players. "It's what you do when your dreams don't materialize that separates the men from the boys," he said.
I've decided that I like having a daughter and 12 sons.