Scott Rowe has a prominent reminder of the last time we chatted.
“I have the article hanging on my wall,” Rowe said.
On April 25, 2001, I wrote a piece in the Chicago Tribune about Rowe’s decision to give up a career in professional golf abruptly at the age of 26. Unlike other would-be struggling young players, Rowe actually had some success. The Northwestern grad won a tournament on the Asian Tour (earning $42,000 in $100 bills) and earned his card for the European Tour the 2000 season.
Rowe seemed to be one breakthrough tournament from making it big.
“Scott was a lottery pick if he were a basketball player,” former Northwestern coach Jeff Mory once said of him.
Rowe, though, decided the lifestyle of endless travel and pressure wasn’t for him and walked away.
“I thought professional golf would be my life,” said Rowe back in 2001. “I found out I love the game, but I don’t love the life.”
Flash forward to 2012, and the U.S. Mid-Amateur, which began Saturday at Conway Farms. The field of 264 players included: Scott Rowe, Hinsdale, Ill.
After more than 11 years, I checked back in with Rowe to see how his life is panning out and if he ever had regrets about his fateful decision in 2001. The bottom line, he said, is that he is where he wants to be, but the journey had plenty of bumps along the way.
“I finally got things figured out,” Rowe said.
Rowe, 37, and his wife, Ashley, have two children: Aiden, 8, and Parker, 2. He works for Ernst & Young as the business development leader for the transactions group.
And Rowe is playing golf competitively. He regained his amateur status in 2004 and plays in a handful of tournaments, including the prestigious Crump Cup at Pine Valley, where he lost in the final in 2010.
Rowe still is serious about the game. He keeps detailed statistics, and the numbers tell him to work on his short game. Often, he practices with only his wedges and putter.
Golf, though, hardly rules his life. He ranks the game fourth on his life’s priority list behind family, career and friends.
“I probably love golf even more,” said Rowe, a member at Chicago Highlands in Westchester. “I play a lot of talented people who are at similar stages in life. It’s good golf, but it’s not like my life is dependent on golf.”
Rowe reflects back when golf was No. 1, at least as far as his career was concerned. During his three years as a pro, he played on every continent but Antarctica.
“Somebody would ask me on a plane, `What do you do?’ I’d say I was a pro golfer,” Rowe said. “They’d get this glazed look on their face. They’d say, `Wow, you’re so lucky.’ I’d tell them, `No, it’s not that way.’ ”
The low point happened while Rowe was sitting in a hotel room in The Hague in 2000. Alone, and down after missing two or three cuts, the realization finally hit him. He didn’t want the life of a pro.
Looking back, Rowe says it was the right decision.
“There are nights now when I work late,” Rowe said. “But I’m still there to see my kids the next morning. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
Professionally, though, it hasn’t been easy. He lost his job in a private equity firm when the economy crashed in 2009. He was out of work for six months. He even started thinking about giving PGA Tour Q-School a try if he couldn’t find a position.
“I was lost,” Rowe said. “I couldn’t find the right fit. It wasn’t just golf. I couldn’t find my thing.”
Then Rowe landed at Ernst & Young, where he’s been for the past 18 months. He said he couldn’t be happier. So much in fact, that Rowe insists he wouldn’t want to trade places with another former Northwestern player, Luke Donald.
“Nobody believes me when I say it, but it’s true,” Rowe said. “You know the old saying, ‘A bad day on the golf course still is better than a good day in the office.’ Hell no, not for me. A great day at the office is so much more satisfying for me.”
Rowe still has goals in golf. He would like to qualify for a U.S. Open so his sons could see him play on the big stage.
Rowe, though, isn’t going to be upset if it doesn’t happen. He even took a low-key approach going into the U.S. Mid-Am.
“If I shoot 80-80 (in the stroke-play qualifying rounds for match play), it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s not going to affect my life.”
His scores actually wound up 77-75, still on the far side of the cut line.
It’s all about perspective, Rowe said. He talked about his relationship to the game. I mentioned to him that while we love golf, golf doesn’t always love us back.
Rowe thought for a moment. Then he clarified what loving golf means to him now.
“When it’s Thursday afternoon at 6, and I’m teeing it up with my son,” Rowe said. “That’s golf loving me back.”