By Eric Soderstrom
The same dream dies every day in Indiana, where most kids sooner or later realize their future isn’t on the basketball team at Indiana University.
Jeff Overton was one of those youths, shooting baskets as the sun went down in Evansville, Ind., convincing himself that he was going to be the best player to ever play for the Hoosiers.
“That was my dream,” said Overton, who turns 22 on May 28.
Dreams often have a way of becoming reality. Sometimes the details just get changed along the way.
Substitute every “drive to the hoop” with “drive down the fairway,” every “jump shot” with “chip shot,” every “bucket” with “birdie,” and you might say that Overton’s dream came true.
“I think I was quoted right after he signed that I think Jeff Overton could be the best player to ever play at Indiana University,” Hoosiers coach Mike Mayer said last week, nearly four years after convincing Overton and his parents that Bloomington was the right choice. “And I don’t say that about everyone I recruit, but I said that about him and obviously that’s going to turn out to be true.”
It turns out the typically bucket-hatted Overton was never meant to do much in Assembly Hall, the church of Indiana for those who consider basketball a religion. When the Class of ’05 gathered at Assembly for commencement ceremonies May 7, fellow graduate Overton was 400 miles north at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., shooting his second consecutive course-record 65 in the second round of the Big Ten Championship. Overton, No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, won the individual title with a 17-under 199 total, tying the tournament record and leading the Hoosiers (No. 50) to a second-place finish.
At the beginning of the week, a Big Ten title and an NCAA Championship were the only items Overton had left on his college checklist. He’s broken all the school scoring records, won eight tournaments, received All-American honors and shot an 11-under 61, the second-best score in NCAA history, this past fall at the Xavier Invitational.
Now Overton’s focus will shift to getting through NCAA regionals and finishing strong at the national championship, where he fired a disappointing final-round 77 last year to finish tied for 20th as Ryan Moore cruised to victory. Later that summer, Overton lost to Moore, 2 and 1, in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur, adding another close-but-no-cigar highlight to his amateur resume, which also includes a runner-up finish at the 2003 North and South Amateur and medalist honors at the 2003 Public Links Championship (where he lost in the quarterfinals).
But if you ask IU’s best golfer ever what his biggest thrill has been, he’ll say “winning the Evansville city golf tournament” two years ago, when he shot 16 under to beat a local legend who has won it nine times.
“That was probably the breaking point for me,” Overton said, because it was the moment he realized he was no longer dreaming.