With a 2-year-old at home and a 2-iron in his bag, Stewart Cink set out in 1995 to pursue a career in professional golf.
Unlike other sports, golf doesn’t feature guaranteed contracts, and most young players earn a paycheck based solely on performance. Budding tour pros also pay their own travel expenses, which often prompts a reservation at the Super 8 instead of the Four Seasons.
Humbling by nature, the sport can lead to self-reflection and self-doubt, prompting even the best players to wonder: If this golf thing doesn’t work out… Twenty-two years, one major championship, and $35 million in career earnings later, the golf thing has worked out pretty well for Cink, who recently signed a sponsorship agreement with Transamerica. Despite the consistent track record of success, the 44-year-old continues to take a prudent approach to his family’s finances.
“I still have the mindset that I used to have when I first turned pro,” Cink said. “That is: ‘If this golf thing doesn’t work out…’ That’s kind of the attitude I’ve maintained my whole career. Don’t take anything for granted in the future. That keeps me motivated today to try to guarantee I’ll have a job tomorrow.”
Balancing wealth and health
Cink adopts a similar philosophy when it comes to his training regimen and overall health. After gaining about 30 pounds in his first five years as a professional, he hired personal trainers to work with him at home in Atlanta and on the road. Cink focuses on flexibility and preventive exercises that target joints, muscles, and connective tissue impacted by the repeated motion of a golf swing.
“When you’re 22, it’s not something you really have concern about. You think you’re invincible,” Cink said. “Naturally, as you get a little bit older, it’s part of your thinking. Golf physically, it’s not demanding like other sports as far as action, but it is demanding over time.
“The real goal is to keep yourself safe from the deterioration as much as possible while also improving your ability to perform with your golf swing. That balance is difficult, but with the right people and the right choices, it can be possible.”
It’s hard to argue with the results. Cink has six PGA Tour victories, including the 2009 Open Championship. He also has never missed a tournament due to injury, allowing him to play in 20-plus tournaments in 20 of his 21 full PGA seasons.
Cink also has represented the United States on five Ryder Cup teams, four President Cup teams, and two World Cup teams. Despite his career achievements, Cink will be the first to admit that his wife, Lisa, is the reigning champion in his family.
Lisa was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in April 2016, prompting Stewart to step away from the Tour to be with his wife as she went through nine rounds of chemotherapy. Lisa is in “sustained remission” and has returned to the gallery when Stewart is in the tournament field. If she doesn’t feel well enough to travel, Cink does not play that week.
“She’s taught me a whole lot through this ordeal,” Cink said. “She taught me a lot about life and how to really dig in and fight.”
Unexpected health complications often provide people with a new perspective on life. After dealing with their own scare, the Cinks want to remind others it doesn’t have to be that way.
“You don’t have to wait for a health crisis or a scare to change your perspective,” Cink said. “That change in perspective is available to you without the impact of some kind of crisis in your family or yourself.”
Cink or swim (or walk)
Eating healthier, exercising regularly, and enjoying adventures with family and friends are just part of the big picture. The Cinks have always been outdoor enthusiasts, often choosing hiking in the mountains over lounging on the beach.
Albeit on a different terrain, walking has always been a part of their lives. According to the American Heart Association, walking at least 30 minutes a day can help improve blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. The average course on Tour is nearly four miles long, and a study in Colorado showed golfers burn more than 1,200 calories during an 18-hole round.
“The number of steps I get when I play 18 holes or more than 18 holes is astonishing,” Cink said. “Some of the longest days hiking, where it feels like you just walked around the world, I get more steps in a 36-hole round of golf.”
Beyond the fairways
When he’s not walking the course (or hiking or skiing), Cink is actively involved in the community. He has long supported the East Lake Foundation that helps individuals and families in the Atlanta area, and he also focuses on organizations that help children through the grieving process. (Lisa’s father died in a car accident when she was 10 years old.)
As a recognition of his professionalism and generosity, Cink received the 2017 Payne Stewart Award. Named for the late Payne Stewart, the annual award honors the professional golfer who exemplifies respect for the game, the PGA Tour’s tradition of charity, and the ability to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
“I see myself doing a little bit more hands-on service, too,” Cink said. “I see that being part of my future and my wife’s, too. Lisa’s been doing this for years. If she got paid for all the volunteer work she does, I’d already be retired.”
After completing his best season since 2010, Cink is nowhere near retirement, but it’s something he also doesn’t ignore. About seven years ago, he and Lisa made a commitment to organizing their investments, charitable commitments, and retirement accounts – something he recommends to everyone, regardless of age or income.
“We really didn’t feel like we had a handle on our future as far as where we were financially,” Cink said. “We decided to make it a priority, and we took action. We have eliminated that as a concern in our life by making the decision to plan for the future and to do it right. It’s been a major source of peace in our life.”
Cink shares his knowledge and experience with his two sons. Conner recently graduated from Clemson University, while Reagan is a junior at Georgia Tech University. Cink marvels at the financial tools and resources available to help them start preparing early in life.
“Conner’s using phone apps to budget his money. We didn’t have that at our disposal in the mid-‘90s when I started as a pro golfer,” he said. “It’s a great time to be saving. The younger, the better.”
With 1.1 million followers, Cink has embraced the digital age. If nothing else, it gives him an instant network to access if this golf thing doesn’t work out.
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