Gossett Relishes Return to Pebble Beach
August 1, 2018 | Liberty Corner, N.J.
By Mike Trostel, USGA
The pro shop at Pebble Beach Golf Links sits just a few steps away from the first tee. They have hats, shirts, headcovers … pretty much any memento a visitor could imagine taking home from the revered course.
Just around the corner is the men’s locker room. To be precise, there are 16 lockers. The names on the doors represent a who’s who of golf royalty – a combination of players who have won at Pebble Beach and celebrities who are closely associated with the course: Tiger Woods. Clint Eastwood. Jack Nicklaus. Bing Crosby. Bob Jones.
This is prime real estate in perhaps the most sought-after land market in the U.S.
A reporter enters the room and looks around, his eyes searching for a particular name. Finally, he finds it – the locker on the far right – and positions his phone to take a photo.
“I want to show this to David tonight,” he says. “I knew he was a good player, but I didn’t realize he got this.”
“David” is David Gossett, the Tennessee native who won the 1999 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. He was back for the Championship Preview, held in July, about a month before the start of the 118th U.S. Amateur. It’s the first time the championship has returned to Pebble Beach since Gossett’s victory 19 years ago.
Almost two decades have passed, but the memories flood back like it was yesterday.
“I remember getting a congratulatory call from [fellow Texas Longhorn] Ben Crenshaw the night after I won,” said Gossett, now 39. “Tom Kite sent me a good-luck fax the night before, too.”
A fax? Alright, maybe Gossett’s victory didn’t feel exactly like yesterday, but technology aside, it’s a week that he will never forget.
“We had a fog delay on the eighth hole,” recalled Gossett. “There were cliffs all around us, so we basically stood in the same spot until we could see again.
“I remember thinking, `Man, this is not Memphis at all.' It was beautiful one moment and then the fog rolled in.”
But the brief seven-minute delay couldn’t slow Gossett’s momentum in the championship match against Sung Yoon Kim, a 17-year-old high school student from the Republic of Korea. Gossett jumped to a 6-up lead through nine holes and went on to close out Kim, 9 and 8. It matched the largest margin of victory in 50 years.
The only mistake Gossett made all day was at the awards presentation. When he held up the Havemeyer Trophy and turned to the left to show it off, the trophy’s lid tumbled off.
“Bogey!” quipped Gossett to the assembled fans and media.
If that was his worst moment of the championship, his best may have been deciding on Andy Martinez as his caddie for the week.
The two had met during the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June 1999, played at Gossett’s home course: TPC Southwind in Memphis. Martinez lived in Marin County, the same county in which Pebble Beach is located, and had seen the course hundreds of times. It seemed like a perfect match – except Martinez was caddieing for Tom Lehman at the time.
“He told me that if I made the U.S. Amateur field, he’d help me find a caddie who knew the course,” said Gossett.
Then a confluence of events led to the fortuitous pairing. Gossett had a great summer with top finishes in several amateur events. That got the attention of Martinez.
More importantly, Lehman decided to take a week off following the PGA Championship at Medinah – the week of the U.S. Amateur – meaning that if Martinez could hop on a late flight from Chicago to Monterey, Calif., he would be there for the start of the championship.
Gossett made the match-play cut with a stroke to spare, but lost the first three holes of his opening match to Chad Collins, the reigning NCAA Division III golf champion from Methodist University.
Enter the veteran caddie with sage advice.
“Andy gave me a pretty good pep talk coming off the fourth tee,” said Gossett. “He wasn’t yelling or anything, but it got me focused and I started playing each hole as its own tournament. I gained some momentum and it was off to the races from there.”
Indeed, it seemed like Gossett’s career was off to the races after the victory in the U.S. Amateur. He earned low-amateur honors at the Masters Tournament while paired with Jack Nicklaus in the final round.
Gossett returned to Pebble Beach for the 2000 U.S. Open. Traditionally, the U.S. Amateur winner is grouped with the reigning champions of the U.S. Open and British Open, but due to the tragic death of Payne Stewart, Gossett played with Nicklaus again, who received a special exemption to play in his 44th consecutive, and final, U.S. Open.
“It was an incredible experience,” said Gossett. “He received a standing ovation on every green. It gives me goosebumps thinking about that. I was honored to be a part of it.”
In July 2001, Gossett won the John Deere Classic and appeared destined for professional stardom. But his first win on the PGA Tour proved to be his last.
He had five top-10 finishes in the 2002 and 2003 seasons, but after a string of 19 consecutive missed cuts in 2004, he lost his fully exempt status on the PGA Tour. He earned his card again in 2006, but would only make one cut the entire year.
Gossett continued to play on mini-tours, practicing long hours and traveling across the country. He tried anything to improve his game, even putting left-handed at the suggestion of University of Texas golf coach John Fields.
He qualified for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, but after missing the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School in December 2015, Gossett decided to call it quits.
“That was a frustrating time on the golf course,” said Gossett. “I still loved the game and the competition, but I got sick of shooting 70s when everyone else was putting up 64s.”
“Plus, I had a different set of priorities and wanted to be home more.”
The main priority was his family. Gossett married his wife, Jenny, in December 2009, and the couple now has four children under 7 years old.
In 2016, he signed on with the commercial real estate firm CBRE in Austin, Texas, and was recently transferred to Nashville, at his request, to be closer to his extended family.
“I had friends in the [commercial real estate] field who really enjoyed it,” said Gossett. “They had a flexible schedule, didn’t travel much and were at the golf course a lot. It seemed like some of them were there more than me!”
Gossett still plays golf – and can do so at a high level. He played 14 holes at Spyglass Hill in 4 under par from the championship tees during U.S. Amateur Preview Day. But perhaps most importantly, now he’s enjoying it more.
“I don’t practice much, but the ball doesn’t know if you’ve been hitting balls all day or not,” said Gossett, smiling. “I always want to play well, but now I’m a little more relaxed.”
Gossett may not have had the career in professional golf that the names above his on the Havemeyer Trophy – Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods – did. But what he accomplished will forever be etched in history.
“I conquered the number one thing I was going after at the time,” said Gossett. “It’s the most difficult amateur event on the planet. When I think of the list of great golfers who also have won the [U.S. Amateur], I’m so thankful and proud.
“To win it at a place like Pebble Beach, that is icing on the cake.”
Mike Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.