Unlike most professional golfers, Mark O’Meara’s path to golf was a solitary journey. Though he was born in North Carolina, by the time he was 13 he had lived in Ohio, Michigan, New York, Texas, California and Illinois before his family finally settled in Mission Viejo, California.
Struggling to make friends and mesh into his new neighborhood, O’Meara borrowed his mother’s golf clubs and walked to nearby Mission Viejo Country Club. As O’Meara recalls, golf became a respite, and he enjoyed the solitude of playing by himself.
“Golf became my friend,” said O’Meara. “Those days on the golf course by myself is when I fell in love with the game.”
He found that he had a talent for golf and, after he received a used set of clubs for Christmas, he began to get serious about his game. He lettered on his high school golf team and received a scholarship to play golf for Long Beach State University, where he was an All-American player.
To top off his college career, O’Meara won the California State Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach along with the Mexican Amateur before defeating the defending champion John Cook at the 1979 U.S. Amateur Championship at Canterbury Country Club in Cleveland, Ohio.
That victory signaled the end of a sterling amateur career. O’Meara joined the professional ranks in 1980.