Jeff Sluman, 1988 PGA Championship winner and a six-time winner on the tour, took a circuitous route to a pro career, starting with a community college in Upstate New York and winding up as a walk-on at Florida State University. There was just one hitch for the aspiring pro golfer.
“I didn’t make the team my senior year,” Sluman said.
What Sluman had in his back pocket, however, was a degree from FSU in finance. “I use that finance degree all the time.”
Sluman made the point Friday, after his second round of the Regions Tradition, as he spoke to the golf team from Miles College. Thirty-eight years since graduating from college, after a couple of hiccups to get his tour card, Sluman is one of the game’s biggest names.
But the message to the golfers at Miles, all recent graduates, was about taking steps for life after school.
“Financial education is part of professional development,” said Miles coach Leonard Smoot. “It’s important that we prepare these students to start work after college and make sure they aren’t blindsided.”
The Miles College golfers got to meet with Sluman and Champions Tour rookie Len Mattiace – a member of the 1986 NCAA Champion Wake Forest golf team — and take in a little of the Tradition.
But the centerpiece of the day for Miles was a crash course in finances with Thomas Stroud, a Financial Wellness Relationship Manager for Regions.
Stroud talked to the golf team about managing and maximizing money, as well as real-word budgeting.
“What’s the difference between savings and an emergency fund?” Stroud asked, drawing a myriad of replies from the recent graduates and Smoot. While some of the answers were close, Stroud quickly broke it down: An emergency fund includes six months of expenses.
“Savings accounts are for fun things, like a vacation,” he added.
Stroud also explained about the four Cs of credit — capacity, capital, collateral and character – and how they impact purchasing power.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you make,” Stroud said. “What matters is your credit score.”
Like Sluman, Miles College had to work its way to the top in unorthodox fashion. The program started from scratch five years ago. Since then, the Golden Bears have won a Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title while finishing second in the conference tournament the last two seasons.
As successful as the Miles student-athletes have been on the course, Smoot wants to ensure they follow a similar path after leaving the Fairfield, Alabama campus.
“My take on this as coach is that it’s not just about golf. That’s a bonus,” Smoot said. “These men are young now, but they’ll have to look after their own families soon. I want them prepared for that.”