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,"
I've decided that I like having a daughter and 12 sons.
Jerry Haas's team finished the season ranked 25th in the country.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB DONNAN At age 34, Wake's rookie coach woke up to his destiny. [Jerry Haas instructing young golfer]