In the end, Colt Knost chose money over magnolias. Probable professional paydays over amateur hype and Masters memories.
U.S. Amateur champion Knost has decided to turn pro, with a formal announcement expected within the week, according to those with direct knowledge of his decision process.
"I will make my announcement this week, but I've been told to stay quiet until then," Knost said. "It's been very hard. Do I take a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the Masters as an amateur? Or do I end my career as the No. 1 amateur in the world having won the U.S. Amateur and the Walker Cup with my team? I've been going back and forth."
The decision is not totally unexpected for Knost, 22, who comes from the tiny North Texas town of Pilot Point. Knost's young life has been filled with difficult challenges, including the death of his father when he was still a small child.
His decision to turn professional means he forfeits his chance to play in the 2008 Masters. His PGA Tour professional debut could come this week at the Turning Stone Resort Championship in upstate New York, or the Viking Classic in Madison, Miss., September 27-30.
Or his debut would come in his home state at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, October 4-7. Knost would be the most heralded amateur to make his debut at the Texas Open since Ben Crenshaw won the 1973 Texas Open in his first professional start.
"I told Colt we were interested in using our exemptions for young Tour players, but not as interested as using it for amateurs," Texas Open Executive Director Tony Piazzi said. "It doesn't matter to us if we're his first tournament or his third."
Knost is expected to sign with Hambric Sports Management as his representative. Hambric agent Blake Smith is the oldest son of longtime Knost golf teacher Randy Smith, the head pro at Royal Oaks Country Club. Randy Smith also guided the career of the former British Open champion Justin Leonard after he turned pro.
Knost is also expected to sign with Titleist, the clubs he currently plays, as one of his major sponsors.
"We are just waiting for Colt to follow his heart, but we feel very comfortable with him," said Hambric Vice President David Winkle. "He's got a full bag of Titleist clubs, and they like him very much.
"He has to turn pro before he can select an agent, but we have been waiting for him to check out all his options and make his decision."
After recently completing his senior season at SMU, Knost has enjoyed what has been perhaps the greatest amateur summer of any player since Ryan Moore or Tiger Woods. He began his summer of dominance by becoming the first ever amateur to make the 36-hole cut at the PGA Tour's EDS Byron Nelson Championship by shooting a second round 64.
He went on to win the Amateur Public Links Championship, at Cantigny Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill., then followed that up with a U.S. Amateur victory at the Olympic Club outside San Francisco. Both of those victories came with an invitation to Augusta National.
He completed the summer and his amateur career by helping the U.S. to a victory in the Walker Cup at Royal County Down in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, with a 2-0-1 record.
Knost was originally considering playing in The Spirit Amateur Team Championship for the U.S. in late October, but tournament officials found out this week that he would not be available.
"We'll just go with the young guys, but we wish him all the success in the world," said Eric Frederickson, the tournament director.
Ironically, one of the players Frederickson is now considering for the U.S. team is Scott Uihlein, the son of Wally Uihlein, a Titleist executive.
Randy Smith said his soon-to-be-professional student was well suited for a pro career, but he declined to speculate on his future Tour success.
"I think I owe him the courtesy of waiting for the formal announcement."