How much is a scholastic athletic career worth? It's an impossible question to answer, if only because each athlete will value the ability to compete at the amateur level differently.
South River (Md.) High freshman Garrett Sauls doesn't have an answer to that question yet, either, but one thing is certain: He's determined that three years of high school eligibility -- and the prospect of collegiate golf thereafter -- is worth a lot more than $5,000.
According to the Washington Post, Sauls was faced to answer that question in May, when the streakily talented Maryland teen won a putting contest at Lake Presidential Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, Md. For winning the contest, Sauls was given the opportunity to walk home with a $5,000 check.
He turned the money down, because accepting it would make him a professional athlete by default.
"I was thinking [of taking it] because you wouldn't really get in trouble unless you get caught," Sauls told the Post. "It's like in college football, those players, sometimes they get paid.
"If you know you're not good enough, then you take the cash. I'm no superstar or anything, but it's still in my mind that I have the possibility to play."
That possibility loomed large in the minds of Sauls and his father, who debated whether or not to accept the prize money. In the end they chose to follow the lead of Hall Chaney, a Maryland teen who passed up the same prize money after winning the putting tournament at the same event in 1999. The Post reported that Chaney also later passed up a Ford Explorer he could have claimed for hitting a hole-in-one at a tournament and went on to compete at the University of Delaware, though he left the Blue Hens team after only one season.
It doesn't appear that Sauls has that level of collegiate or potential professional attention, at least as of yet. The freshman told the Post that he has yet to be contacted by any college coaches, and was not a qualifier for the Maryland state tournament in fall 2010.
Still, both Sauls and his father seemed confident that he had made the right decision to forego a one-time cash infusion for the prospect of three more years of high school golf, at the very least.
"The funnest times of your high school career are playing high school sports, at least it was for me," Rob Sauls, Garrett Sauls' father and a former high school and collegiate lacrosse player. "I didn't want him to take the chance of not finishing his career playing high school golf. You can't put a value on it."
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