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
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.
Sandy Tatum, a lawyer, was USGA president from 1978 to '79.