13 PGA Tour Winners Who Used To Be Regular Working Stiffs
February 22, 2015
Rich Beem sold cell phones
The man most known for topping Tiger Woods at the 2002 PGA Championship didn't always cash big checks on the golf course. In fact, that win came just several years after Beem was making just $7 per hour selling cell phones and car stereos. When Beem won his lone major at Hazeltine, he was still carrying around his former ID card from that job. "I don't want to ever forget where I came from," he said. "The jobs I've had served their purpose. They got me here. I never want to forget about hustling around trying to earn a $5 spiff on a $1 cell phone."
Bill Lunde worked in real estate
Lunde was captain of a UNLV team that won a national championship in 1998, but after failing to earn his PGA Tour card by 2005, he quit golf. Lunde worked office jobs in sponsorship sales for Las Vegas Founders and in real estate for about 18 months until losing his job when the housing market went bad. He gave golf another chance, earned his tour card through a big 2008 on the Nationwide Tour and then won his lone PGA Tour title at the 2010 Turning Stone Resort Championship.
Y.E. Yang worked at a driving range
Yang only picked up golf after getting a job at a driving range at 19. At the time, he was still an aspiring bodybuilder and he hoped to open his own gym, but while trying to get another job at a construction company, he tore his ACL in his left knee. After doing his mandatory two years of service in the South Korean military, Yang decided to pursue a career in golf. He showed off that bodybuilding strength when he hoisted his golf bag over his head after defeating Tiger Woods head-to-head at the 2009 PGA Championship.
Padraig Harrington was an accountant
Long before he became a three-time major champion, Harrington had mastered another skill as well. Not sure he would ever make it in golf, Harrington mixed amateur golf and accounting for several years before turning pro at 24. He's been racking up prize money and being able to do his own taxes ever since.
James Hahn sold shoes
After graduating from Cal in 2004, Hahn struggled on mini-tours for a couple years before quitting and getting a job at an advertising agency to support himself. At this time, he also worked in the shoe department of not one, but two Nordstroms in California. He refers to that phase of his life as his "Al Bundy period."
Boo Weekley was a hydroblaster
Before becoming a three-time PGA Tour winner with more than $12 million in earnings, Weekley made a modest hourly wage ($15 per hour) working as a hydroblaster for nearly three years at the Monsanto Chemical Company. In that dangerous job, Weekley would be lowered into tanks wearing rain gear and a bullet-proof vest and he'd clean out tanks filled with chemicals. "That's one of the worst jobs anybody can do," Weekley said. Yeah, winning millions of dollars playing golf sounds a bit more pleasant.
Ian Poulter was an assistant club pro
Many pro golfers get their start working at various country clubs, but Poulter was still an assistant pro charged with running the Leighton Buzzard Golf Club pro shop when he was 23. "I made so little working in the pro shop, all I could do was buy the groceries," he told Sports Illustrated's Alan Shipnuck in 2013..
Paul Goydos was a substitute teacher
Before he became a two-time winner and one of only six players to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour, Goydos made a living working as a substitute teacher at various California high schools. "And that opened my eyes to the harshness of how life really is as opposed to the guys who play golf for a living," Goydos told the L.A. Times in 1999. "And it may have made me work a little harder." Goydos appreciated that phase of his life, but he eventually graduated to making much bigger checks.
Fred Funk was a college golf coach
Before he found a successful career on the PGA and Champions Tours, Funk first had to learn how to win as a coach. He took the head coaching job at his alma mater, the University of Maryland from 1982 to 1988, and he also worked as a newspaper circulation supervisor before making it on tour. "My game got better as I was coaching, and I started to consider whether I could make the Tour or not, so I kept going to Q-School" Funk told GolfTheMidAtlantic.com prior to his win at the 2005 Players Championship. "I just wanted to see how good I could get."
Woody Austin was a bank teller
The man known for a hot temper was actually a cool operator as a bank teller at GTE Federal Credit Union in Tampa for eight years until his golf game was good enough to play professionally full-time. "I was there for so long, I could have moved up through the system and could have been a manager," he said. "I always felt as though if I stayed at the level I was at, I could come and go as I pleased. I could make my own hours and it wouldn't be hard to go out and play golf tournaments." Austin made the 2007 Presidents Cup team and wound up banking more than $16 million in on-course earnings.
Scott McCarron sold shirts
After graduating from UCLA in 1988, McCarron went to work with his father in the family clothing business for four years. "I was really good at selling shirts," he said. "The company didn't do too good, and I was kind of forced into turning pro and playing golf." He had to settle for three career PGA Tour titles and $12 million (and counting) in prize money.
Will MacKenzie worked at Taco Bell
Once a promising junior golfer, MacKenzie gave up the sport until he was 25. In between, the adventurous spirit did just about every job from security guard to washing dishes to construction to working at Taco Bell, all to support himself while he lived out of his van in Montana for five years. But after seeing Payne Stewart win the 1999 U.S. Open, MacKenzie was inspired to give golf another chance. Two PGA Tour titles and more than $7 million in on-course earnings later, MacKenzie can pretty much afford all the wilderness excursions he pleases.
Vijay Singh was a nightclub bouncer
As a young struggling golfer, Singh once worked as a bouncer at an Edinburgh nightclub. "The women were the hardest ones to handle. When they fight, goodness gracious me! I knew how to deal with the men, but the women… you never knew what they were going to do," Singh told The Scotsman in 2008. They were pretty rough, especially with a few drinks inside them. I could handle myself though. I had done some martial arts and I was in tune with what was going on." Somewhat of a late bloomer on the course, Singh eventually could afford to drop the side jobs and focus on winning golf tournaments. We're pretty sure he's the only former nightclub bouncer enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame.