Chip Spratlin’s moment in the sun dates back 27 years, but it’s a feat they will never forget at Auburn University.
Spratlin won the 1995 NCAA golf championship while playing for Auburn, and the Johnson City native’s accomplishments will be commemorated on the Tiger Trail, where the university’s sports greats are honored with granite plaques carved along from the sidewalk of downtown Auburn.
Spratlin was inducted into the exclusive club, Auburn’s own Walk of Fame, at a ceremony last week. The Tiger Trail has been in place since 1995. The first class included the likes of Bo Jackson and Chuck Person. Spratlin was inducted along with seven others, bringing the number of honorees to 132.
“It was a lot of fun,” Spratlin said. “I was deeply honored. You know how much I love Auburn University.
Spratlin’s family and his former college coach Mike Griffin attended the ceremony. The next day, they watched Auburn’s spring football game.
“We have to get out there and be recognised,” he said. “And then we all had to stand in line and give everyone high-fives when the team came out onto the pitch. It was cool. We did this mainly for my son and daughter. My son is 13 and my daughter is 19. They never really did anything like that. So they were able to experience all of this.
Spratlin is now a 50-year-old corporate pilot. When he won his only collegiate victory at the Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio, it had special meaning. He beat a freshman named Tiger Woods.
The Stanford star had won three college tournaments that year, was the reigning US amateur champion and had just played in the Masters a few months earlier.
When Spratlin won, most of the publicity was about Woods failing to do so. He finished fifth. The Associated Press report on the final round was more about Woods’ non-win than Spratlin’s win. “Tiger Woods lost the NCAA individual title then missed a putt in a team playoff as Oklahoma State won the national championship from Stanford,” the AP wrote.
Spratlin said in an interview a few years ago that he understood the interest in Woods even back then. He was able to experience the hype firsthand.
“I played with him a few times earlier in the year,” Spratlin said of Woods, who won the 1996 NCAA championship in his second and senior year of college. “Every time you played with him, even in college, a couple hundred people followed him. It was still very good. He had such a reputation that people came to see him play.
Spratlin, who began his career at Auburn as an extra and eventually earned a scholarship, tried his hand at professional golf but regained his amateur status several years later. He won the Tillinghast Invitational at Johnson City Country Club a record four times.
Now, anyone who walks through downtown Auburn and comes across a certain plaque will remember the little-known golfer who killed the Tiger.