Four times as nice
If you ask Craig Steinberg where his golf game is now, his answer is a little too modest.
“I’m just trying to manage my Handicap so I can compete with the guys who take my money every weekend,” he says.
But Steinberg, a four-time SCGA Amateur Champion who has also won two SCGA Mid-Amateur titles, is still one of the top amateurs in California, now playing on the senior circuit and competing at an extremely high level.
“The goal now would definitely be to win the SCGA Senior Amateur,” he says.
And if the North Ranch CC member and longtime tournament participant is able to pull off the SCGA Triple Crown, he would be the first man to win the SCGA Amateur, SCGA Mid-Amateur and SCGA Senior titles.
But for now, Steinberg will have to be satisfied with the fact that in the 115-year history of the SCGA Amateur Championship, only one man has won more titles than he has (Paul Hunter, 5). Steinberg dominated the amateur golf scene from 1988-1997, winning all four of his SCGA Amateur Championships during that 10-year stretch, including back-to-back wins in ’91-’92.
“I have fond memories from all four wins, but the one that sticks out no doubt is the last one at Lakeside GC,” says Steinberg of his 1997 win. “In the end it came down to Jason Gore and I, and at that point in his career Jason was just playing awesome golf. He was about to be named to the Walker Cup team, so I think I was the only person to beat him at anything that summer.”
But golf was never the end all be all for Steinberg, who even during his playing days at USC took on a heavy course load as a Biology major. Upon graduation, he went to optometry school in St. Louis, where he continued to compete on the amateur circuit.
“I was medalist at a couple of U.S. Open qualifiers there, which would be front page news in the sports section,” said Steinberg of living in a smaller town. “In Los Angeles, that wouldn’t have gotten more than a mention in the results section. Amateur golf there was definitely a bigger deal.”
With so much success in the amateur golf world, it’s a fair question to ask why Steinberg didn’t turn pro. But his answer is a good one.
“I didn’t realize then how much better we were all still going to get,” he says. “I looked at my game at the time, and felt I wasn’t good enough to play professionally. What I didn’t realize is that we were all getting better even after graduating from college. I look back and see how much better Steve Pate and Corey Pavin both got. Looking back, that might have been different for me if I had known.”
Steinberg went on to practice optometry, and eventually law, which he still does today. He did turn professional briefly at age 49.
“These days, I’m really working a lot,” said Steinberg, who still manages to find time for golf about three times per week. “My law practice has gotten really busy, I represent about 50 optometrists, so that takes up five or six days a week. And then I still see patients on my own a couple Saturdays a month.”
But golf never fell by the wayside. Even with a time-consuming career and a family, Steinberg made golf fit into his life, spending summers on the road playing in USGA events with his family by his side.
“I was never one of those people that put the clubs away for a few years,” said Steinberg. “My son and daughter grew up on golf courses. Golf was a part of what I did, and therefore a part of my family.”
Craig Steinberg’s SCGA Amateur Wins
1988 – Annandale GC
1991 – Bel-Air CC
1992 – Fairbanks Ranch CC
1997 – Lakeside GC