Even on the PGA Tour, the Blue Devil connection brings people together.
Last month, Kevin Streelman and Joe Ogilvie, the only former Duke golfers on the PGA Tour, tackled golf’s toughest test, the U.S. Open Championship. Neither was ever in the hunt, but both played well enough on the challenging Olympic Club track to make the cut—Streelman ended the weekend tied for 59th at 15-over-par and Ogilvie finished 72nd at 23-over-par.
“Olympic Club played exceedingly difficult but fair,” Ogilvie said. “I probably had two decent days of play, and then the other two I let the U.S. Open kind of get me.”
Streelman fared better on the weekend, although he finished 14 strokes behind winner Webb Simpson.
“I played well,” Streelman said. “I didn’t play great, but overall I was proud of the week.”
The two golfers’ U.S. Open performances were emblematic of their careers—successful, but neither flashy nor easy.
Ogilvie, who graduated from Duke in 1996, spent a few years playing on mini-tours, such as the Nationwide Tour, before earning his PGA Tour card for the first time in 1999. Since then, he has spent 13 seasons on Tour—he lost his card for a year following the 2002 season—and has raked in more than $10 million in prize money.
Ogilvie’s season likely ended the week after the U.S. Open when he suffered a herniated disk in his back, forcing him to take time off for the first time in his career. He called the required six-month break from competition a “mixed blessing.”
“Since I graduated from Duke I think I have spent 250 days a year on the road,” Ogilvie said. “I have never gone more than probably 14 days without picking up the sticks.”
Streelman, who graduated five years after Ogilvie, has more than $5.7 million in career earnings, including more than $1.3 million in 2011 alone. But the start of the native’s professional golf career was tenuous.
Following his graduation in 2001, Streelman toiled for six years on various mini-tours, racking up 400,000 miles on his mom’s Nissan Altima in the process, and at one point needed the financial support of personal sponsors to travel to and enter events.
“When I graduated from school, all my friends were going to Wall Street, law school or medical school,” Streelman said. “I always just followed my heart. It sounds a little corny but it’s really true—I just continued to work super hard and chase my dream.”
Streelman finally broke through in 2007, earning his Tour card through the PGA Tour qualifying school.
“When I got through Q-School, I kind of felt entitled that I had worked my butt off to get there,” he said. “And I was going to work that much harder to make sure I stayed.”
From the start, Streelman had looked to Ogilvie, who had already been playing on Tour, for guidance. When Streelman was on the road in a new city, he would ask Ogilvie where to eat, or which hotel was best. Ogilvie even helped Streelman sign with his first agent, who still represents both of them today.
“He has been kind of a big brother to me,” Streelman said. “We have stayed very close friends.”
Ogilvie, who fellow Tour players voted the “Brightest Guy on Tour” in 2009, says that the relationship the two golfers share has “morphed” over time. Ogilvie helped Streelman adjust to the life of a professional golfer, but since then Ogilvie said he has learned from Streelman’s work ethic, among other things. He even used the sports psychologist with whom Streelman had been working.
“I don’t know if I was his mentor, but I was certainly a sounding board,” Ogilvie said. “And now I think the roles have, to a certain extent, kind of reversed.”
A changed relationship
The two golfers’ relationships with the Duke golf program have changed as well. Both were coached by Rod Myers, who worked with the Blue Devils for 34 years until he passed away in 2007.
Although they both keep in touch with current head coach Jamie Green, it is more difficult to develop and maintain a relationship with a coach for whom they did not play, Ogilvie said. They do their best to keep an eye on the how the team does and have gotten to know some of the players that have played for the team in recent years, but both would like to make the trip back to Duke more often.
They also try to stay close with their teammates from their time at Duke. Ogilvie said his constant traveling allows him to see old friends more frequently.
Streelman noted that he uses an annual golf gathering of friends from his time at Duke to “just get together, play some golf, drink some beers and rehash some old memories.” He added, “they are still some of my closest friends.”
Both Ogilvie and Streelman stay connected to Duke, and the relationships they developed while on the golf team have shaped their lives, on and off the PGA Tour. Ogilvie and his wife, Colleen, routinely host fundraising dinners to benefit Blue Devil athletics and plan to visit Duke with their three young children soon.
“You don’t realize how great Duke is until you graduate,” Ogilvie said. “Then you look back on it—how quickly it went and, as an athlete, how much you wish you had a fifth year.”