Local Father and Son Enjoy Professional Success as Golfers
Scott Steger and his son Eric loved playing baseball when they were young. Over time, however, they both gravitated to another sport golf and the PGA, one that was more individual in nature.
“With golf, there’s nobody to lean on in tough times,” Eric says. “When you have a good tournament or good round of golf, nobody else gets the credit.”
Scott, 64, was first introduced to the sport by his grandfather, who asked him to caddy. One day Scott realized that if he could hit a baseball, he could likely hit a golf ball as well.
He was immediately hooked and played throughout high school, landing a scholarship at Ball State University (1974-1978). His son followed in his footsteps, taking up golf at age five and never putting down the club. Living next to Pebble Brook Golf Club in Noblesville meant the two could practice right outside their door whenever they wanted.
After graduating from Noblesville High School in 2007, Eric also earned an athletic scholarship from Ball State, where he played from 2007 to 2011 (in fact he was the third college athlete in the family, as his mother Donna played golf at Ball State as well). Now 31, he’s been playing professionally for ten years, more recently with the PGA developmental Korn Ferry Tour.
The pair like the sport because it can be played for life, unlike others that take a substantial physical toll over time. Though Eric and Scott concur that it’s hard to find a seasoned golfer who has never sustained back or shoulder problems, they have endured years of play relatively unscathed.
“I only had one injury that ever affected my golf game, and that was back in college when I made the mistake of getting into a dorm-versus-dorm tug of war, and tore ligaments in my thumb,” Scott says. “It cost me playing in the NCAA tournament that year.”
After graduating from Ball State, Scott played three years on the PGA tour before exploring the club pro side of the golf profession. He worked at Pebble Brook for 28 years, and then at Anderson Country Club for five. For the past five years he’s been teaching golf to children and adults.
“I train a lot of middle and high school boys and girls, as well as college players,” Scott says.
While most youngsters don’t aspire to turn pro, a few dare to dream.
“I know what kids need to do to make that happen and frankly, they don’t all have that level of discipline,” says Scott, noting that one can’t improve if they don’t touch a club between lessons.
“You really have to have a passion and dedication for it if you want to play at the pro level,” Scott says. “You basically can’t have a life because you spend every spare moment on the golf course, driving range or putting green.”
This is precisely why golf teaches great life lessons such as honesty, integrity, adversity and patience.
“Oftentimes you can do everything right and it still goes wrong, whether that’s a bad bounce or a wrong decision,” Eric says. “That’s where patience comes in because if you grind and grind, all that hard work will eventually accumulate into a win at some level.”
Golf is one of the few sports in which the athlete can’t outwork or out-hustle somebody on the field, unlike football or basketball where one tries to gain speed to beat someone else to the ball.
“In golf, all your work is done before the tournament and then at the tournament you have to mentally beat other people and stay patient, waiting for opportunities, which isn’t easy,” Eric says.
It’s something both father and son have done. In fact, they are the only father-son duo to win the Indiana Open and Indiana Amateur championships – an impressive feat when one considers that both events have existed for more than a century.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re playing in a mini tour event or the PGA, winning is rare,” Eric says. “When you look at stats, you only win 2% to 3% of the time. It just goes to show how hard it is to win a tournament over the course of 72 holes, and it’s amazing to be the only duo to do it.”
Scott, who has spent 36 years as a club professional, enjoys the fact that going to work means heading to the golf course.
“I’ve gotten to hang around with friends, talk to people all day, go home and do it all again,” he says. “Looking back at 53 years in golf, I’ve gotten to do what I enjoy.”
Eric is still working on moving up in rank with the PGA tour. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, his tour came to an abrupt halt as he played one event in Mexico in March before the tour was postponed. For several months, when no tournaments were happening, Eric admits that his motivation to practice waned significantly. There were other factors, however, that captured his attention.
“I have a 14-month-old son and a new puppy,” Eric says. “I preferred staying home and playing with them.”
Now that facilities and events have started to open back up, however, he spends an hour or two per day practicing his skills. Then he gathers his buddies and plays money games.
“That’s honestly where golfers get better the quickest, by going out and playing in pressure situations, whether it’s a putt to win $10 or a putt to win $1,000,” Eric says. “It’s also the most fun way to play.”