Editor’s note: This column originally published in The Charlotte Observer on May 3, 2013.
Exactly one year ago Thursday, golfer Jordan Spieth was named Big 12 Conference Player of the Year and was one month away from helping Texas to a national title.
Fast forward a year and he sits at 3-under par after the first round at the Wells Fargo Championship, tied for 14th and well on his way to earning his PGA Tour card for next season.
Spieth, 19, turned pro in December. This year he has earned $622,398 in eight events while playing with special temporary member status, which allows him to receive unlimited sponsorships throughout the year.
To get his tour card, he must finish in the top 125 in earnings. Last year’s 125th finisher ended the season with $25,000 more in earnings than Spieth has now with about half the season remaining.
“Starting the year out I wouldn’t have imagined being in this position, ” Spieth said. “During tournament weeks, I’m just thinking about the leader board and how to move up the leader board and not think about age or position.
“And now, even going into this event, that I have enough to have my card for next year, it’s definitely reassuring. It’s nice to have the second half without any worries and stress. I’m just trying to win now.”
Spieth is one of the hot young names in the golf world. He was the low amateur at last year’s U.S. Open, shooting 7 over at San Francisco’s Olympic Club to tie Tiger Woods for 21st in the major tournament.
That wasn’t the first time he had been linked to Woods. He and Woods are the only golfers to win the U.S. Junior Amateur more than once.
On Thursday, playing Quail Hollow Club for the first time as a professional, Spieth went birdie-birdie to start his round. He sank a 23-footer for birdie at the par-3 second to shoot to the top of the leader board.
“I just wanted to be smooth to start off, ” he said. “(No.) 3 through 6 is a tough stretch, so you want to grab a couple in the beginning. I was fortunate. (No.) 2 was a long putt and you don’t expect to make it.”
Spieth birdied the par-5 fifth but said he left one on the course at No. 7, a 532-yard par-5, where he had to take a one-stroke hazard penalty before making par.
Spieth gave back his birdie at No. 15 with a bogey at the par-3 17th. His missed the green to the right on his tee shot, and a poor chip left him with 23 feet for par. He almost gave another stroke back on No. 18 after his driver found a bunker on the right, but he made an 8-footer to close with a 69.
“It’s all about patience on this course and make sure you’re hitting greens, ” he said. “I feel comfortable with how I’m hitting it, especially my driver, so that’s good news for the next few days.”
Though he’s focused on his game this weekend, he’s still keeping an eye on his Texas Longhorns, who won the Big 12 championship last week.
“I’m following up with those guys, and obviously those are my friends, ” Spieth said. “I miss Austin some and just miss hanging out with those guys.
“This is my decision and I’m happy where I’m at now, but I still get to go back and hang out with them. I just don’t have the school part.”