CHAMPIONS
Q&A: Steven Spieth on Golf, Hoops, Family March 17, 2016 By Scott Lipsky, USGA

Steven Spieth has established himself on the court as a key contributor at Brown. (Brown University/David Silverman)

Jordan Spieth climbed to the top of the golf world in 2015, becoming only the sixth player to win both the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year. Spieth’s younger brother, Steven, is also competing at a very high level in his chosen sport, as a three-year starter on the men’s basketball team at Brown University. Steven, a 6-foot-6 guard who was third on the Bears in scoring and second in rebounding during the 2015-16 campaign, recently talked about his golf game, Jordan’s skills on the court and the impact family has had on their success.

Let’s start with the most important question: Who is better: you at golf, or Jordan at basketball?

That’s a tough one. Honestly, right now, I’d have to say me at golf. The last time I shot around with Jordan, it wasn’t pretty. Since he moved into his new house, he’s got a court downstairs, so he’s been telling me his jumper was getting better, but I don’t know. He’s a pretty good shooter but other than that I don’t know if he can do too much anymore.

My golf game is all right. I broke 80 a couple of times last summer. I don’t play as much as I wish I could up here, but I’ll play more in the spring.

Are you guys still competitive when you do play golf together or when you shoot around together?

We played some 3-on-3, stuff like that, over Christmas, but I’m not trying to start any competition on the golf course. We played 1-on-1 up until probably around eighth grade, and then he started getting serious with golf, and then I think my mom made us stop playing [against one another]. We would go at it pretty good; I don’t think she wanted any injuries. He’ll tell you he won the last matchup that we had; he didn’t want to play again after that (laughs).

How about memories on the golf course together? Was golf something you participated in throughout your childhood?

Definitely. We were up at Brookhaven Country Club almost every day in the summer, growing up, playing golf, swimming, racquetball, tennis, just staying busy. He decided after we got to middle school that he wanted to be out in the 110-degree heat every day playing golf and I chose the air-conditioned gym.

Any memorable stories on the golf course?

The last time I beat Jordan in golf was when my dad and I played a scramble against him a few years ago. Come to think of it, that was the last time I played him competitively. We were tied going to the last hole and we hit a terrible drive and I’m a lefty, so I hit a big sliced 3-wood left. We couldn’t see where the ball was, but I thought it was pretty good based on where the green was. We got up there and it was about 6 feet from the hole and my dad made the putt, so we ended up taking him down that time.

Steven was on hand when Jordan captured the 2015 U.S. Open title at Chambers Bay. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Can you outdrive Jordan?

I think the last time I outdrove him was two summers ago. Who knows, it might have been off a cart path or something like that (laughs). That’s the key for me; I can hit it a pretty long ways, my thing is keeping it straight.

You play different sports, but when you sit down and talk as competitors, do you find a lot of common traits in what you both deal with and what you’re trying to achieve?

Yeah. As competitors, overall, we both want to be as good as we can be, and work as hard as we can to get to where we want to be. I think it’s just trying to work every day to get better. Obviously, it helps to have such a supportive family. I try to get to as many tournaments or watch as many tournaments as I can. And he gets up here every once in a while and also tries to watch online, so that’s always a big help. We’ll send each other a quick text once or twice a week to see what’s going on, what’s coming up, how everything is going, stuff like that.

You mentioned your family being so supportive. One of the enduring images from Chambers Bay was Jordan being surrounded by his entire family when he won. Obviously, your family has been a big part of your success.

I think they are the biggest reason for our success. I think 99 percent of the credit goes to our parents and the way we were raised. They’re extremely supportive, they always have been, and [younger sister] Ellie is one of our best sources of inspiration. It’s always a relief that no matter if you win or lose, play bad or play well, she doesn’t care, she’s always smiling and she’s happy to see you or get to hear your voice. I attribute [my family] to every success, and I know Jordan does, too.

With you playing for Brown in Rhode Island, and your family living in Texas, do they get to see you play in person often?

They come up all the time. My whole family, as well as my friends and my brother’s friends and his girlfriend, a couple of uncles and cousins, all came up for a late birthday celebration this season. They came up for two games, and then my parents and Ellie have been up here pretty much every weekend for Ivy League games, which has been awesome. Obviously, it’s a little tougher for Jordan to get up here with him playing and everything, but they make it to a lot of games.

The Ivy League schedule has back-to-back games, one day after the next, as opposed to a day in between games like many other conferences. Is that a schedule that you like?

It’s different. We do it for academics. It’s tough when you play a lot of minutes, especially when you’ve done it a few years in a row, but it’s good, win or lose, you get to put that game out of your mind. It’s fun to be able to compete two nights in a row. The tough part is waiting the five days to  get to do it again.

When you think about your ultimate goal as an athlete, is it to win the Ivy League? Are there some other things you want to do individually, during your college years and beyond?

I’d love to win an Ivy League championship, that’s my biggest goal for next year, and then my dream is to play professionally. I’ve still got another year, so I haven’t decided what I want to do yet for sure, but I’d love to be able to play overseas for at least a couple and travel and live that life. I’ve got some former teammates who are over there or have been over there, and apparently it’s an amazing experience.

And you’ve gotten to see your brother travel the world playing golf.

He gets to see some amazing places and he gets to do it pretty often. It’s pretty cool that the game has let him do that, and we’ve been able to go along for the ride a little bit. If a game can allow you to have those kinds of experiences, I don’t see any way I could pass it up if I get the chance.

Will we see you out at Oakmont this June?

Yeah, I’ll be there, and I’ll get out to the Masters, too. Those two, I get to every year, which is awesome.

Scott Lipsky is the manager of websites and digital platforms for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.

2016 U.S. Open