Twenty-five years ago, one of golf’s historic moments occurred outside of Portland, Oregon, as Tiger Woods attempted to claim an unprecedented third straight U.S. Amateur Championship conducted at Pumpkin Ridge GC. His opponent was an unheralded 19-year-old University of Florida student with his girlfriend on his bag.
The finale between Steve Scott and Woods had the golf world buzzing. Scott made six birdies to build a 5-up lead after the morning 18 and was 2-up with three to play in the scheduled 36-hole finale when Scott’s simple act of sportsmanship changed the course of the match. Those nine words “Hey, Tiger – you need to move your mark back,” saved Tiger from losing the match on account of a rule violation, but all these years later it makes for a good book title (Skyhorse Publishing, $19.99).
Golfweek spoke to Scott at the PGA Championship, where he was signing books at the PGA Shop and giving lessons. The book officially is on sale June 1 and available at movethatback.com
SS: Through the Outpost Club, which I run, I connected with Tripp Bowden and I invited him to do a book signing at our Silver Club championship at Champions Retreat (near Augusta, Georgia). He heard me speak and said, ‘I’ve got to write this. You told me this story as matter of fact as if you passed the bread.’ When the pandemic hit, we had a lot of time on our hands and the stories just started flowing.
SS: Not at all. It’s amazing how time flies. I’ve told the story at casual dinners, member-guests, junior seminars. I’ve lived it for a long time. If I had played really crummy and shot 78 in the second 18 and totally blown it, who knows if I would be in the golf business. Who knows if I could live with myself having to tell that story. But the way it went down, I played my butt off and he did too. I could look at it as a negative, but if I did I think I’d be doing myself a disservice.
SS: It’s a lot. When you’re a pro at a club, you’re kind of a celebrity. When I got my first pro job, I went to the USGA offices and got a couple of photos from the match blown up 20×30 and I sent them to Tiger and he signed them and they are in my office now. He wrote, “Nice shot.” I think he meant like the picture shot.
I got more traction out of that match losing to Tiger than if I beat someone nobody really knew. I still can’t believe that I was that guy. Think of the probability: 312 competitors start out in stroke play, 64 qualify for match play, we had to be on opposite sides of the bracket, you have to win five matches, and it seemed like every match I had a once-a-year shot happen. I chipped in on the very last hole of my semifinal match to win. Things that don’t happen all the time kept continuing to happen.
SS: We were paired eight months prior in the final round of a college event. He shot 70 and ended up being medalist and I shot 80. I was totally in his world. I got sucked into his game. It was unlike anything we’d ever seen. Fast forward eight months later to the Am, I didn’t watch him hit a shot. I didn’t want to get sucked into his mindset because I couldn’t compete with him. It was a David vs Goliath thing which we talk about in the book.
SS: I got a bunch of sponsor invites into PGA Tour events. I got to play the Masters and stay in the Crow’s Nest. I’m 19 and they hand me the keys to a brand-new white Cadillac and I’m driving down Magnolia Lane. I grew up 2 minutes from where the Honda Classic when it was played at TPC Eagle Trace and got to play my hometown event at 19. I probably wouldn’t be doing the broadcasting that I’m doing. Other than not getting the trophy, so many great things came out of the day.
SS: I’m 5 up after 18. If you do the math, if we just halve the front nine, if I’m 5 up with 9 to go I’m probably not going to lose. He made a 12 footer for par at the 19th hole to not go 6 down. He showed a little life. He had kick-in birdies at the 21st and 22nd holes and the very next hole I decelerated on a 5-foot par putt and just like that I’m only 2 up. If I could have treaded water a little longer. I knew he was going to come with something and I could feel the pressure. My gut was in a total knot. I was executing great golf shots, which is one of my fondest memories, that I was under the most pressure I could ever be under and my game shining through.
SS: Kristie has a very cool perspective of how it all played out and she writes the afterword. My aunt and uncle paid for her to get out there. She was always giving me back rubs to keep my shoulders from tightening up. She’s always been that calming influence. She knew how to distract me and she did that pretty well that day.
She was raking the bunker for me at 16. She didn’t realize it until after the moment. She’s definitely proud of me that I upheld the rules of the game.
SS: My parents got divorced when I was 13. We moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas and six months later my step-dad lost his job and we moved to Memphis. I didn’t have any friends. Golf was my friend. It was the one constant in my life. In the match, I feel like I was there for the game and that’s the thing I’m proudest of in that match. I’m most proud of doing the right thing without making a conscious thought to do so. That’s what golf teaches you. Putting it down in book form is my way of passing it along and making sure people don’t forget it. Time goes by quickly. I want my great-great grandkids 100 years from now to remember it.
Would you have done the same thing? That’s kind of what the book asks you. My hope is if you play golf that you know the rules and that’s part of the game and why it’s on that pedestal. Not to go all Patrick Reed on you, but if I’m a parent of a 10-year-old and my 10-year-old, on the first time he ever sees golf sees Patrick Reed do what he does in the sand, maybe that junior thinks that’s OK, he got away with it and he wins. I’m not a fan of that. I don’t know who is.
SS: For six years, I tried. Tiger was on this bullet train. I played 15-20 PGA Tour events, but my mind wasn’t ready. Now, the game has passed me by. I didn’t have all the skills I needed to be at that level but for one day I got to hang with the best in the world.
SS: We’re going to go out to Pumpkin Ridge on the anniversary and play in a pro-am there. They are going to have the same hole locations as they did in 1996.
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