Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck stunned the football world when he announced his retirement at 29, after a long string of injuries.
There are many golfers who also surprised by walking away from the game at an early age, as well. Some did it because their priorities changed, the putts stopped dropping, or, as in Luck’s case, they couldn’t get healthy.
Here are nine players who left the game prematurely:
Jones is considered the finest amateur golfer ever and also was a co-founder of Augusta National. He at one point captured 13 championships in 20 attempts, starting with the 1923 U.S. Open and ending with the 1930 U.S. Amateur. He won the Grand Slam in 1930 – U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open, British Amateur – and retired at 28.
His 11 straight wins in 1945 are the gold standard of golf records. He would amass 18 victories that year, plus seven runner-up finishes, and post a scoring average of 68.33, making it easily one of the best seasons, if not the best, in golf history. The man with the machine-like consistency retired from fulltime competition the following year at age 34 to work on his ranch.
After missing a four-footer to force a playoff at the 1933 U.S. Open, he walked away for nearly three years, selling used cars in Dallas. A comeback yielded two U.S. Opens, a Masters victory and three straight Western Open titles from ’36 to ’39, but he never won again, unable to find his game after agreeing to write a golf-instruction book.
The Texan was on top of the golf world when he won four times, including The Open Championship, in 1981. He was named the PGA of America’s Player of the Year that season. Alas, he walked away from the game seven years later, the victim of burnout after accepting too many appearance fees in the wake of his Open victory. “That was how to make money then,” he told Golf Digest in 2011. “You had to travel.” He worked as a director of golf at a country club and as an assistant coach for the University of Texas-San Antonio golf teams.
Won 25 times, including two majors. Captured five of the first 11 tournaments in ’74, and three more later that year. Four more wins in ’75. Priorities changed with the birth of the first of his six kids, and he later got the yips. He semi-retired in 1990 to start broadcast career at age 42. “When I got to the mountaintop,” he said, “I kind of looked at the scenery and wondered, ‘Now what?’ When Jack got there, he said, ‘Where’s the next mountain?’” He won the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am despite making just five starts in the previous four seasons.
He peaked with a one-stroke victory at THE PLAYERS Championship in 1990, one of four wins over three seasons. He had just begun the 1996 campaign, failing to advance to the weekend rounds for the fifth time in five tries with a second-round 76 at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, when he walked away from the game at age 35.
Injuries (left thumb, Achilles tendon) hounded Kim after he exploded onto the scene in his 20s. He beat Sergio Garcia, 5 and 4, at the 2008 Ryder Cup, made a record 11 birdies in his second-round 65 at the ’09 Masters, partnered with Phil Mickelson in the ’09 Presidents Cup, and won three times on the PGA TOUR. Still just 34, he hasn’t played since 2012.
After winning her 72nd LPGA tournament in 2008 – her third victory in eight starts that season – and eclipsing $22 million in career earnings, she announced she would be retiring at the end of that season at age 37. “I have other priorities in my life,” Sorenstam said. Among them: starting a family. She remains active in the game.
She won five Junior World titles, was twice NCAA Player of the Year, and over a seven-year career racked up 27 victories on the LPGA, including two majors. Ochoa won by as many as 11 strokes, accrued 21 tournament titles from 2006 to ’08 alone, and was world No. 1 for 158 straight weeks before taking an early exit at 28 to start a family.
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM