Patrick Reed believes the time was right to leave school and become a professional golfer. It would be difficult to find a rational person who's willing to argue with him.
After leading Augusta State to its second consecutive NCAA men's golf championship a week ago, Reed makes his PGA TOUR debut this week at the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic in Memphis. If his college results are any indication, he's going to be OK.
"It's a dream come true," Reed said. "It's going to be fun."
Reed could have spent the rest of the summer playing in a series of prestigious amateur events, including the U.S. Amateur and waiting for that inevitable spot on the Walker Cup team. (They were all but stitching his name on the official team bag.) Instead, he decided to dive in, turn pro and start chasing the dream to play the PGA TOUR he's had since a child.
"He's probably playing the best golf of any amateur in the world," Augusta State coach Josh Gregory said.
The casual observer may not know much about Reed, if they know anything at all. But the hard-core fans who follow the college game know all about the 20-year-old who single-handedly wreaked a little havoc a week ago at the NCAAs. Reed began by finishing third in the 54-hole stroke play portion of the event, which determines the eight teams that will participate in the match-play phase used to decide a team champion.
The individual highlight for Reed came in the second round of match play, where he went head-to-head with defending U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein of Oklahoma State. All Reed was asked to do was beat the nation's No. 1 amateur on his home course in front of a vocal throng of supporters. The noise on the first tee was so loud that Reed had to laugh to himself. Was he intimidated? Not in the least.
"The best moment was standing at the first tee and having five people there -- my family and a couple friends -- cheer for me, and then all of a sudden they tee off and it sounded like they had just won a national championship in football," Reed recalled. "It was so loud when they announced Peter's name, it was just fun. I have never played in that type of atmosphere before where I felt like an underdog, when it was silent when I was playing. It's amazing the fans - how supportive they are of their golf, and how honored they are to have such a good golf team there."
The last laugh belonged to Reed, too. He eschewed typical match-play strategy, put his head down and began to play. By the turn he had a six-hole lead and didn't even know it. "You're 6 up," an assistant coach told him. "I'm 6 up?" the surprised Reed asked. He finished the job at No. 12 and spent the rest of the day roaming the course and encouraging his teammates to complete the job, which they did.
Not that Reed was comfortable on the sidelines -- even though he had already done his job. The willingness to embrace pressure-packed situations is what has helped distance Reed from his peers.
"I love having the tournament on me," Reed said. " I was a nervous wreck against Oklahoma State because I had closed out and I just had to sit there and watch to see how my guys were going to do. I love whenever my back is against the wall, and I prefer it that way.
There was no letdown the next day, either, as Reed's was the deciding match in the championship against Georgia. He beat Harris English, a former Georgia Amateur champion and four-year starter, 2 and 1 in the final to give Augusta State its second-straight NCAA title.
There was a little added motivation to beat Georgia, too. Reed began his career in Athens, but left after one season to return home and play for Augusta State. He cited the move as a "comfort factor" and said he felt over whelmed by the sheer number of students that were on campus every day.
"He's probably playing the best golf of any amateur in the world."
-- Augusta State coach Josh Gregory, on Patrick Reed
"I grew up in small town, small schools, and I went to a school where at the time it seemed like it had a million people," Reed said. "You couldn't get from point A to point B in any amount of time. I felt like the only way I was going to succeed in golf was to go to a smaller school with fewer distractions and the coach brought me in and gave me a chance there."
Augusta State was a perfect fit and Reed spent two years playing against some of the best players in the country on a year-round basis. Now, having decided to skip his senior year, he's ready to take it up a notch.
It begins this week at TPC Southwind, where Reed won his first American Junior Golf Association event when he was 15. Reed's adrenaline-laced journey continued with a practice round on Tuesday and his first appearance in the media center. He'll tee it up for real on Thursday, starting his career off the first tee at 1:48 p.m. -- the final time of the day. Reed is paired with Martin Pillar and Mike Small, whose other job is golf coach at the University of Illinois and who is quite familiar with his young playing partner.
It may not happen his week, but supporters believe Reed has the game to play at the highest level. He's got good length off the tee, is deadly accurate with his irons and always seems to come up with the clutch putt. He'll be tested this summer, not only in terms of competition, but also with his schedule and his time management skills. But right now he's focused on making his PGA TOUR debut a successful one.
"I'm just going to go out with my game, stick with my normal game plan like I did last week, and hopefully it's the best I can do and hopefully it works out well," Reed said. "The golf course is beautiful as ever, just like it was back then. The greens this time seem a little softer. You can hit it a little higher, a little farther, a little bit more spin -- but it's going to be fun. I can't wait to get out there.
If momentum means anything, it should be a good introductory week.
Stan Awtrey is a freelance columnist for PGATOUR.COM. His views do no necessarily represent those of the PGA TOUR.