On the latest episode of the Stick and Hack Show, golfer and PGA pro Steve Scott chats with Mike and Adam about his new book about his experience at the 1996 U.S. Amateur, when he “handed” Tiger the victory. Listen here for the full story, as well as more the importance of sportsmanship.
The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.
Stick & Hack: In 1996, you told Tiger to move his ball mark back, thus allowing him the victory. What were you thinking?
Steve Scott: I think the answer is, I wasn’t thinking- but in a good way. I mean that in the most sincere form because golf is one of those sports where, as a junior, as you come up in the ranks, hopefully your parents teach you the right things to do. I think for me, in that moment, it was such an instinctive reflex action, so I wasn’t really thinking because it was just something that I’ve done before, and I would have done it playing with the guys or whatnot. But it just happened to be in in the U.S. Amateur Finals, in an ultra-pivotal moment.
S&H: Is it weird for you to have that career-defining moment, and to be forever linked with the greatest golfer of all time?
Steve Scott: I don’t think it’s weird, I think it’s great. Everybody would love to play with the greats of the game- I’ve been fortunate enough to play with Jack Nicklaus in the practice round of the Masters, the following Spring I played against Tiger Woods, I’ve shook the hand of Arnold Palmer twice. I’ve been able to be around and play golf with the greats of the game, so to be linked with Tiger Woods, arguably you know the greatest player of our generation, it’s an honor. Then the way it all went down… it’s pretty surreal to think that I was that guy in that moment.
S&H: Tell us about the book. Why, after 25 years, did you decide to tell this story?
Steve Scott: The timing is pretty interesting, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my co-writer Tripp Bowden- he wrote a story about his friendship with Freddie Bennett at Augusta National- I ended up telling him my story. At the beginning of December 2019, he said, “I’ve got to write this story,” and so we started on the journey in January/February of 2020. Then the pandemic comes around, and so we have a lot of time to sit around. It’s pretty amazing the amount of time that it takes to write a book, and Tripp did all the writing, but we talked for tens, if not hundreds of hours. He got my voice and put it into the book, put the sizzle in it; and it’s just a tremendous and cool process to get it all done. And the timing with the pandemic allowed us even more time to really dive into the nuts and bolts of the story.
S&H: Tell us a bit about the book and the story, because I think it should be a very short book. But, there’s a lot that goes into your story, where you are today and how golf has really been that in that major vein of your bloodstream. Tell us about the overall arching storyline that the book brings, and why people would want to understand and know more about you but more about that story.
Steve Scott: On the surface, yeah, you’d think this might be just a five-page essay and be done. But it’s really amazing all the things that lead up to getting into the U.S. Amateur; it’s the biggest amateur championship in the world, there’s a lot riding on that one event for amateur golfers. It was one of those moments where there’s a lot of build up, because I was fortunate that I played pretty well in the previous U.S. Amateur in ‘95, I played in the semi-finals which got me that automatic birth into that ‘96 U.S. Amateur. I also qualified for the U.S. Open just before the U.S. Amateur in 1996.
So, a lot of things really have to happen leading into that, but for me one of the stories of the book, my parents were divorced when I was 13, and I moved away from South Florida, where I knew. I went to a place just for my eighth grade year in the Northwest corner of Arkansas, and then Memphis, Tennessee. I lived in two places my eighth grade year and so it was hard to make friends, so golf was my friend. Golf was there for me. Fast forward to that moment on the 34th hole, because golf was there for me as a youngster, I felt like I had to be there for the game. So that moment, I was there for the game, and upheld the integrity and the honor of the game of golf, and showed in that moment an instinctive reflex action why golf is the game that it is and the game that we all love to play.
S&H: You talked about how golf is one of those sports where rules and sportsmanship collide all the time, what are the lessons that you think someone can learn from your story?
Steve Scott: Perseverance, number one. I think that’s a big thing for me, in that U.S. Amateur alone, I shouldn’t have been in match play. I shot 79 the first day of stroke play, I’m in 242nd place after day one. Only the top 64 make the match play, and so I had to go out and perform miracles in the second round. I went out and shot 5 under par, 66, on the secondary golf course and made it in by a shot. With all the pressure on the line, everything really riding on that one round, and every moment being very important, every putt being so crucial- I overcame that first round and persevered. That’s one lesson. Another lesson- certainly- the sportsmanship of the match; making sure that you’re there for the game, and having that moment where you didn’t let winning get in the way of doing the right thing. I think that that’s probably the biggest lesson of this whole book. Where we are in the world… the world needs some feel-good stories to remind us of the greatness of sport and the greatness of golf, and here I am. The timing is pretty good.
Key takeaway: Doing the right thing says a lot more about one’s character than winning.
Listen to the rest of the episode here to Steve explain the importance of setting a good example for younger golfers and more about his experience as a pro golfer.