Teen golf sensation Jordan Spieth makes big splash in PGA Tour debut
|Friday, June 4, 2010|
By Cathy Harasta
IRVING, Texas — It had been a watershed week, and as Jordan Spieth approached the last fairway on his final round, he raised an arm to acknowledge the crowds.
His Jesuit College Preparatory School classmates positioned themselves to welcome the teen golf sensation to the 18th green at the TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, where Spieth made his PGA Tour debut at the HP Byron Nelson Championship May 17-23.
For Spieth, 16, the week that whirled him into a new orbit was ending. But he could read in the faces of his family and friends that much had begun.
“We came to support Jordan,” said Walker, whose squad cheers at Jesuit sports events but never had ventured into golf cheers. “Even back when we were at St. Monica, we knew he was really good at golf. But this is amazing. He represents good sportsmanship and leadership. And he also is humble.”
Students and parishioners from the Diocese of Dallas said they got a lift not only from Spieth’s top-20 finish at golf’s highest level, but also from his example off the course. He signed countless autographs and made time for numerous requests.
As the nation’s top-ranked junior golfer, Spieth had attended the Nelson tournament regularly since childhood.
But to play in it “is totally different,” he said. “I could definitely get used to this.”
Spieth contended into the final round and finished in a tie for 16th at 4-under-par 276. Jason Day won the Byron Nelson with a 270.
When Spieth became the sixth-youngest golfer to make a PGA Tour event cut, his story went national. His fresh face and engaging family popped up on sports telecasts. And he wowed veteran golf reporters with his poise and articulate responses.
“It’s definitely good for Jesuit,” said Zach Walker, a Jesuit alum and cheerleader Hannah’s brother. “He’s a great, great kid with great manners.”
Jordan’s mother, Chris Spieth, said her son cherishes his family and school community. She said she was thankful that her son had chosen a friend and former Jesuit golf teammate, Kyle Baginski, as his caddie. She added that her son’s early commitment to the University of Texas relieved pressure.
“Jordan decided to stay close to home for college,” Chris Spieth said. “He’s getting where he likes to hang out with his friends and his girlfriend.”
His father, Shawn Spieth, had wanted nothing more than for all of this to be fun for his son. Shawn, who is in software mobile applications, generally arranges Jordan’s schedule.
“I just hope that Jordan takes it all in,” he said. “I think that things will sink in a little later.”
Jordan’s brother, Jesuit freshman Steven Spieth, attended the tournament, while friends helped the family care for the couple’s daughter, 9-year-old Ellie, throughout the week.
Spieth, playing the Byron Nelson on a sponsor exemption and for no prize money, appeared to make the biggest splash with young fans. And he was in their prayers, said Joseph Gannon, 13, a student at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic School in Plano, north of Dallas.
Gannon wore a Jesuit T-shirt to the third round May 22. He and two school companions grinned and said they said a prayer for the teen golfer who had become just “Jordan” or “The Kid” to many fans.
“Jordan is amazing,” Gannon said. “I’m going to Jesuit.”
Spieth said he felt the surge of that support, and that it inspired him to a strong finish in the third round. He shot a 3-under-par 67, his best round of the tournament.
Cathy Marino, the Jesuit golf coach, attended the Nelson’s final round. She called the experience of watching her student-golfer in the Nelson “beyond exciting.”
But it also had been a difficult week for the Jesuit community, she said. Some students and staff who would have been at the Nelson’s last round could not make it. On May 23, the school held a memorial for Jesuit junior Paul Tatum, who died May 18 after a car accident.
“It has been a really up-and-down time,” Marino said. “The boys support each other. The boys help each other. And they help others.” — CNS