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Turn Back the Clock

Jordan Spieth turned pro 10 years ago, and it was a lot riskier than you might remember

December 14, 2022
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Jordan Spieth, a college golfer at the University of Texas, poses for a Golf Digest magazine story in 2012.

If Rickie Fowler celebrating his 34th birthday on Tuesday didn’t make you feel old, try this one on for size: Wednesday marked 10 years since Jordan Spieth announced he was leaving college to turn pro.

In December 2012, Spieth was a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Texas just finishing up his fall semester when he decided it was time to move on. And he did so despite the fact he had no playing status on any tour. Spieth had just competed in the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School as an amateur, finishing T-26 at TPC Craig Ranch to miss advancing to the final stage by three shots.

"The decision to turn pro was a difficult one, but I'm looking forward to the challenge of competing at the highest level and accomplishing the many goals I've set for myself on and off the course," Spieth said in a press release on Dec. 12, 2012. "I owe everything I've achieved thus far to the support of my family, friends, teammates, and the University of Texas. While I'm proud of what my teammates and I have accomplished, I couldn't be more excited to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a professional golfer.”

At the time, Spieth had played in eight PGA Tour events as an amateur, making the cut five times and finishing in the top 25 twice. His best showing was a T-16 finish at the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship, when he became the sixth-youngest player to make the cut in a PGA Tour event. He had also earned low-amateur honors at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club with a T-21 finish.

Coming off a freshman season in which he had earned All-American honors and was a member of the Longhorns’ team that won the NCAA title the previous June at Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles, Spieth was banking on the fact that he would get sponsor’s exemptions into various PGA Tour. He hoped then he could play well enough to parlay those into tour membership.

As it turned out, Spieth made the right call to bet on himself. After missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2013, Spieth finished T-22 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. In his next start, the Puerto Rico Open, he tied for second and followed that with a T-7 finish at the Tampa Bay Championship. At that point, he’d earned enough money ($521,893) to claim special temporary member status, allowing him to accept unlimited sponsor’s exemptions.

Spieth then proceeded to have three more top-10 finishes (T-9 at RBC Heritage, T-7 at Crown Plaza Invitational, sixth at AT&T National) before claiming the first of his 13 PGA Tour titles with a playoff win at the John Deere Classic in July.

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Jordan Spieth holds the trophy after winning a three-way five-hole sudden-death playoff at the 2013 John Deere Classic.

Michael Cohen

"I would just say, honestly, I have a ton of inner confidence," Spieth told Golf World magazine after his finish in the Crown Plaza event in May 2013. "Turning pro when I did, when I did not have a card, there were a lot of voices saying, 'wrong decision.' But I did it for a reason. I had a plan leading up to it. I knew I'd get enough starts, enough opportunities. That kept me calm earlier this year."

Spieth wound up making $3,879,820 during the 2013 season and finsihed seventh on the FedEx Cup points list. Two years later, in 2015, he’d have a five-win season that include claiming the first of this three major titles.

A decade after turning pro, Spieth is set to play this weekend's PNC Championship with his father Shawn.