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Fame & Fortune
Hale Irwin
Hale Irwin
College football star chose career busting par, not heads.
Celebrity interview

Cautious, but shoots for pin if time's right

Bankrate: Guess that's why they don't have a Champions NFL league.

Irwin: I don't know that I would have even made it (in the NFL). I'd like to say, sure, I would have. I like to be very positive because that's what I am, but just being realistic, it would have been a long shot. But I think it's a long shot for a lot of guys.

Bankrate: You did pretty well right out of the box on the PGA Tour.

Irwin: Well, I was a Monday qualifier. I stayed that way for two years. I started in May of 1968 and I gained exempt status the first of the year in 1971. I lost one event in a playoff to Billy Casper in the early part of 1970, so I felt, well, I can do it, even if I've got a lot of things to learn. I tried to be a sponge; I tried to see what all the great players did around me, how they played and what I could do that they did and what I couldn't do. Just trying to formulate a plan for success.

Bankrate: You were a family man by then.

Irwin: Oh, yeah. I was married and our first child came in December of 1971. I won the Heritage in November of 1971 and our daughter was born in December of '71.

Bankrate: Was it hard financially during those early years?

Irwin: Oh, sure. I didn't have two nickels to rub together. My folks didn't have a lot of money and I had to have sponsors. Both gentlemen were from Colorado and they helped me through 2½ years until I felt I was ready to go at it on my own. In those days, you had to show to the PGA, which rarely ran the tour in those days, financial support of at least $20,000 a year, so that's what I borrowed from my sponsors, and that's what we lived on. We pinched pennies. We stayed in efficiency units, we didn't dine at all the greatest places, we drove everywhere and I didn't pay a lot of caddie fees. I just had to watch what I spent.

Bankrate: Did your family travel with you on the tour?

Irwin: Sally traveled with me the entire time until our first child came along, when there was a break there. But as soon as Becky was old enough to travel, yes, they traveled. Then Stephen was born in '74, we all traveled together until school started. Then that kind of put an end to the family travels. I found that it was a lot easier on my family for them to have a life away from the tour, for me to go home each week. So, when I would finish a tournament on Sunday, I would fly home, even if it was just for a few days, a day and a half, just to be with my family, to be the assistant baseball coach and take my daughter to soccer and try to attend what school events I could and just be a dad. We lived in St. Louis.

Next: "The investments ... are pretty much like the way I play."
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