ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Fred Couples didn’t make his father very happy turning pro on a whim without telling his parents.
When Couples didn’t show up for the start of his senior year at the University of Houston after losing in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur, his parents learned he was in Southern California, staying with family friends.
Couples impulsively turned pro while visiting those friends so he could play the Queen Mary Open, a regional professional event at El Dorado Park in Long Beach, Calif. He called his parents after the event to relay the news.
“I said, 'Hey, Dad, I just made $1,800,' and he hung up on me,” Couples said.
Couples tied for eighth with Mark O’Meara, who also had just turned pro.
While Couples said he didn’t really think the monumental decision through, he looks back at it as a turning point that led him to Monday’s World Golf Hall of Fame induction at the World Golf Village.
“I thought maybe I could sign my name on that [Queen Mary Open registration] and still go to school,” Couples said. “I don't really know what I did. That's the truth.”
In one of his classic Freddie stories, Couples delighted media telling how this all came about because he got bored visiting those family friends and asked if there was a local course he could play. They dropped him off at El Dorado, but the course was closed for the Queen Mary Open. Couples said he was invited by a guy he met in the pro shop (Larry Benson) to play with his group. There was a hitch, though. Couples had to turn pro to do so.
“The next morning I drove back to the course and turned pro,” Couples said. “Why, I have no idea.
“At that time, I didn't have a manager, or an agent, or a lawyer, or a chef, or a masseuse, or a trainer, or a cell phone, or anyone to call. I made what was probably, at the time, the dumbest decision I ever made. Turned out to be the greatest decision.”
Couples told how he was so clueless when he turned pro that he didn’t know registration for PGA Tour school was days away from closing. A friend, Tom Lamore, told him he had two days to get his application postmarked.
“A, I didn't know what 'postmarked' meant,” Couples cracked. “B, I had already borrowed $200 to enter the Queen Mary Open. I borrowed $500 from Tom Lamore's uncle.
“I went to the regional, qualified. I went to Fresno and qualified, and then two months later I was on the PGA Tour.”
And the rest is history.