When I joined SMU, I shot a 77 in my first round of qualifying to make the team.
If you had told me then, 18 years ago, that I was going to be inducted into the SMU Hall of Fame one day, I would have just laughed.
Seriously, it would have been the funniest thing ever.
But I guess Coach Jay Loar saw something in me back then that I didn’t.
I wasn’t the biggest, tallest, or most athletic guy. And I wasn’t coming in with this crazy resume or anything like that.
But I knew nobody was going to outwork me on the golf course. I probably focused more on golf than school, and believe me, it definitely showed in my grades.
But that was MY path.
Golf was all I wanted to do. I wanted to see how far I could go in this sport.
And looking back, I like to think I made the right choice.
SMU was the perfect fit for me right from the start.
I took one visit there and canceled everything else immediately. My longtime swing coach, Randy Smith, also lived in Dallas at the time, and I knew being closer to him would give me the best chance if I did decide to play at the next level.
But at first, I didn’t really have a lot of aspirations beyond college. I started playing golf so late, and my early results didn’t necessarily forecast a bright professional golf career — crazy how quickly things were starting to fall into place, though.
I come from a small town called Pilot Point, Texas. Where I’m from, we all know one another.
Suddenly, here I was in the heart of Dallas, trying to process the magnitude of it all.
Frankly, it was all a little overwhelming at first.
There were 12-15 guys on the team, and they were absolutely loaded with talent. I wasn’t even sure if I would fit in, much less crack the top five.
But I qualified for my first tournament as a freshman, and I never missed one for my entire career.
Looking back, that’s easily one of my proudest accomplishments.
I set the school record with seven tournament victories and earned the right to be called an All-American, along with 2007 Conference Golfer of the Year. There was a point where I was even the top-ranked amateur player in the world.
But in golf, none of it mattered when I finally made the decision to turn pro.
You see, golf is different than most sports. There are no drafts or selection parties for the top players. I was the No. 1 amateur in the world, and I was basically forced to start from scratch. There’s no getting drafted to the PGA Tour.
It was like that first day in college all over again with me having to earn my way there.
If I could go back in time and tell 22-year-old me some stuff, I think my career path would be totally different. But that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing because I love everything I’ve been through and where it’s led me.
I’m also grateful for the people along the way that played their role of getting me there.
Coach Loar helped me with the mental aspects of the game, and Coach Smith put me around legendary players like Justin Leonard and Harrison Frazar.
It isn’t every day that you get to watch and learn up close from two of the top players in the world. The best way to improve is to be around people that are better than you.
See what they do different. How do they work and go about things in comparison to you?
Justin Leonard is a Hall of Fame golfer, and I had an opportunity to pick his brain.
You can’t pay for that kind of experience.
Eventually, I went on to play in 199 events on the PGA Tour.
And my most memorable one?! Hard to pick a single event but playing both Saturday and Sunday with Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship certainly holds a special place in my heart.
Playing with one of your childhood idols at a major championship is about as cool as it gets for a kid from Pilot Point. Or any golfer, for that matter.
How do you even begin to top a memory like that one?
Of course, I didn’t play great, but it was still just so cool to share the same playing field with him and strike up a conversation.
Listen, I think everybody looks back at some point and wishes their professional career was better than it ended up being, but at the end of the day, I believe I was really lucky to play on the PGA Tour for eight years.
That doesn’t happen every day.
The truth is, nothing lasts forever, even this sport that I once dedicated my life to. I was unfortunate to run into some injuries that just kind of derailed everything for me. But if those injuries didn’t happen, I would have never found my passion in media.
I’d probably still be that guy struggling to play and figuring out what’s next. That injury helped me keep golf in the forefront, while putting my competition days in the rearview.
Would you believe I work harder now than I ever did when I was playing professional golf?
I’m a co-host of “Gravy and the Sleeze” on Sirius XM, and I’m also a co-host for “Sub-Par” with Drew Stoltz. That doesn’t even include the on-course reporting I do for CBS Sports and the Golf Channel, which has been a dream come true, honestly.
My media work fills the void of competition.
I walk inside the room to broadcast what’s going on out there, and I instantly feel the energy from the crowd. Those bubbling feelings of anticipation and sudden jolts of adrenaline — I still feel it all.
I haven’t fallen out of love of playing golf for fun, but I’ve been fortunate to make a smooth transition to another career path.
However, there are still those moments when I reminisce about things.
I remember talking to NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, and he was telling me about how much he misses being in the locker room. You’d think he missed the competition of playing against the best in the world.
But more than anything, he missed the company of his teammates on those long plane rides to cities across the country.
He missed the trash talking and all of the stories he’d share with the guys—those are the moments that stick with you the most.
When I think of my time at SMU, those are the moments I know I’ll never forget either.