WINDERMERE, Fla. – Imagine this: Your oldest of three children is growing up before your eyes. The kid who never caused much trouble, who always looked after his younger siblings, who made the honor roll every semester. He works hard toward reaching his goals. He decides to attend his dream college. He makes your heart burst with pride, then keeps making you prouder.
After a year-and-a-half, though, despite loving college life and being surrounded by friends and having no immediate job prospects, he decides to leave school. You support his decision, because you trust him; you worry, because that's part of your parental makeup.
What happens in the months afterward only surprises you in its swiftness. Before too long, he earns a job in a very difficult field, and quickly proves to be among the best in the world. It isn’t just your heart bursting with pride anymore. That feeling now permeates every fiber of your being.
Welcome to the world of Shawn and Chris Spieth, who on Sunday watched their 21-year-old son, Jordan, win a professional golf tournament for the second straight week against some of the game’s most talented players.
Actually, that’s not exactly true. According to his mom, they spent the afternoon at a friend’s house in Dallas, only “sort of” watching – the byproduct of Jordan owning a double-digit lead throughout most of the final round.
“It’s hard to describe how we really feel,” she said as her son was polishing off the Hero World Challenge title. “We pinch ourselves, we really do.”
Jordan Spieth’s journey from determined amateur to top-10 player began exactly 101 weeks ago, when he left the University of Texas on Dec. 14, 2012, after just a semester and a half. While his rise to the ranks of the elite has come at an accelerated rate, it hasn’t been without reservations.
Less than three months after turning professional, he was competing in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on a sponsor’s exemption. Watching him struggle with his game, his parents sidled up in the gallery next to Steve Cantlay, whose own son, Patrick, had similarly left school early the previous year.
“I asked him, ‘Have you ever questioned your son’s decision?’” Chris recalls. “‘Because I’m questioning ours right now.’”
Needless to say, that sentiment has deteriorated.
While his friends and former classmates are preparing to embark on life in the real world, Spieth continues living in what he calls “fantasyland.” He is now the ninth-ranked player in the world, owns three victories and, yes, has earned more money than many of those other 21-year-olds will accrue in a lifetime.
“I don’t know if he’ll ever understand what it’s like to come out of college and find a job,” his mom says. “He didn’t have a job, but he knew what his job was going to be. There are kids who come out of college and don’t know what their job is going to be for 10 years.”
Likewise, there are parents who don’t stop worrying about their children’s career prospects for even longer.
That worry has long faded away for the Spieths, who only dreamed Jordan could find this much success so soon after deciding to pursue his goal.
“Yeah, we dreamed,” Shawn says with a laugh. “You want to convince yourself of that when your son’s leaving school early, because it was important to him and important to us to get an education – and he’ll still do that. But certainly, he had a rookie year that exceeded our expectations and this year, even without a win, was better than last year.”
They insist their oldest son – the one with the quick smile and the good manners and the smooth putting stroke – is far from perfect. His mom points to his boys-will-be-boys mischievousness with friends at home; his dad cites impatience and anxiety, both of which he believes have improved recently.
As they “sort of” watched him win by an eye-popping 10 strokes Sunday, his parents were once again bursting with pride – not for the eagle and 29 birdies he made on the course, but for their son’s humility and grace in victory.
With just a few holes remaining in what was essentially a final-round coronation, Shawn confided what he’d say when it was finally official.
“I’ll text him and tell him I wish we were there,” he said. “What an awesome performance. We’re happy for him and proud of him.”
In the minutes after Jordan earned the biggest win of his young career – literally, at least, if not also figuratively – he offered up some words for his family, too.
“I know they're watching,” he said. “I play for them. I wouldn't be here without their sacrifices, and I can't wait to get back home to them.”