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But first Sigel had to get through college, and that wasn't easy. He had a wonderful time at Wake Forest but he was a lousy student. "I was in college so long," he says, grinning in his modest, good-salesman's way. It was Betty Wingo, Sigel's wife-to-be, who was primarily responsible for his graduating. "She thought it was very important, much more so than I did," he says. After their graduation in 1967, Betty taught school and Jay joined the John Hancock Insurance Company in Westchester, Pa.
"I certainly didn't set the world on fire," he says. "I didn't understand the game. I thought people would buy insurance from me because I was a good golfer. I found out that doesn't happen. It was a rude awakening. Also, I'm not a born salesman. I had to learn."
Today Sigel is a very good insurance salesman. He writes $15 million worth of business each year, but he has never collared a prospect on the golf course. "I never have and I never will," he says. "I figure I'll be around a long time. In the short run I may lose some business, but in the long term it will return in various ways."
Understatement is Sigel's style in golf as well as business. His dress, his manner, even his words are unobtrusive. His sentences frequently begin with preambles such as "I have been fortunate enough..." and "I have had the privilege to..." and "If I may be so presumptuous..." as if he were apologizing in advance for talking about himself at all. Similarly, his golf swing is slow he says and his demeanor as he walks between shots or waits his turn on tees and greens is totally unrevealing. It is impossible to tell whether things are going well or badly for Sigel by watching his face. Forced to choose, one would probably guess badly, and be wrong much of the time. "I like to get myself into a position, on the last day or the last nine holes, where I can say to myself, 'O.K., it's up to you now, bring it home, win it.' I thoroughly enjoy that challenge. That is what golf is all about."
Since 1975 Sigel has been ranked among the country's top 10 amateurs every year. He has won most of the major amateur titles at least once, including the British in 1979. In May he was named playing captain of the U.S. Walker Cup squad, which beat the British 13�-10� at Hoylake, England. He was the first playing captain chosen since Charlie Coe in 1959.
But the '82 U.S. Amateur was Sigel's finest victory. Most observers at Brook-line felt he was too old to win. Even Sigel may have thought so. But match play works strange magic sometimes. "If you're tired and you're not playing very well, you can freewheel it a little bit," he says. "You can take more chances than you would normally, because you have two ways to win—your good shots and your opponent's misfortunes."
Sigel's good shots kept coming at the right times. He sank a 40-foot putt on the 17th hole of his semifinal victory over 19-year-old Rick Fehr. He was so nervous going into the 36-hole final match against 22-year-old David Tolley that he shanked his second shot, but he settled down after a birdie on the 10th and played like a genius for the rest of the day, closing out Tolley 8 and 7.
At North Shore the competition will come from fuzzy-cheeked 22-year-olds like Willie Wood, an Oklahoma State graduate who is headed for the PGA Tour, as Sigel once was. But Sigel has no complaints. "I want to continue playing," he says, "but I'm also looking forward to not playing. I'm going to put my clubs down this fall and take my kids to a football game. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I won't hit a practice ball from mid-October until mid-March. But watch me in March. I'll be ready."