For his college career, Stephan Jaeger is the most decorated golfer in the history of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Now he'll be playing the game for his livelihood.
Jaeger, the Mocs' All-American, will make his professional debut Thursday when he plays in the NGA Tour Classic at Achasta Golf Club in Dahlonega, Ga.
"The goal this year is to give myself an opportunity to make my life a little easier: You can interpret that any way you want," said Jaeger, a native of Germany who starred at Baylor School.
"I want to compete, and being on the next level, you have to get used to it a bit," he said. "Hopefully I can do that quickly and figure everything out."
Jaeger closed his UTC career with four individual championships, including the 2012 Southern Conference and NCAA Bowling Green Regional titles. That led the Mocs to the NCAA championship tournament, where they finished 18th.
"I think he is more ready to turn pro than most guys, because he's been going toward this since he was at Baylor," UTC coach Mark Guhne said. "I think he's going to be fine. He's played in some European tour events as an amateur, he's played in the U.S. Amateur and he's played on other big stages."
Jaeger took a few weeks off from competition to return to Germany. Jaeger arrived back in time to serve in the wedding of former teammate Ben Rickett this past weekend.
"I'm playing well, and I think I have a shot to finish well this week," Jaeger said. "I'm going to do my best and see what happens."
Jaeger joins a club of former Mocs and Chattanooga-based golfers on the professional level. They include Andrew Black, Thomas Smith, Bryce Ledford, Derek Rende, Tripp Harris and Jonathan Hodge.
"It's good to have another familiar face out there," said Rende, who is No. 30 on the Hooters Tour money list and was a UTC teammate of Jaeger for two years. "A great thing about having all the guys live around here is that it's easy to get games going when we're not in tournaments."
Jaeger has little idea of where he'll be playing once the calendar turns to August.
He will follow this week with his debut on the Web.com Tour (formerly the Nationwide Tour) in Columbus, Ohio. Jaeger earned a spot in the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational by virtue of being named an All-American. It's also the tournament that former Baylor teammate Harris English won last year as an amateur.
"I think this week is good for him getting long pants under his belt and then going to the [Web.com] event," Guhne said. "If he doesn't put too much pressure on himself early, I think he'll be successful if he just goes out and plays golf."
Beyond next week, Jaeger's schedule is wide open. It could include more Hooters Tour events, Monday-qualifying for Web.com events or one-day tournaments in Atlanta.
But he does have a focus on PGA Tour qualifying school because this is the last year that the top 25 at Q-School will earn PGA Tour cards.
"If I play well in Ohio, then I can get in the next week's tournament and then my whole schedule changes," Jaeger said. "But my schedule is open and I don't know what's going to happen."
Agents have contacted Jaeger and Guhne about the opportunity to represent Jaeger in tournament and marketing opportunities. Jaeger said he'll pass on an agent for now.
"We'll see how this year goes. Maybe I'll have some success," Jaeger said. "But I'm not in a hurry to sign. I'm going to go do my thing, and I don't need to have an agent right now."
But he may need one in the future.
"Long-term, I think he can have a lot of success," Guhne said. "I think he can do very well."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...