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Where Jordan Spieth caught the golf bug

IRVING, Texas -- Shawn Spieth and his oldest son, a sandy-haired 6-year-old named Jordan, were running late.

This was 16 years ago, and Jordan was excited to attend their hometown Byron Nelson tournament on that Friday afternoon. He wanted to watch a few of his favorites -- Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III were paired together -- and maybe even collect a few autographs.

It wasn't the first time Jordan had been to the event. A few years earlier, he and younger brother Steven were sitting by one of the greens when Payne Stewart hit a ball near them. "If you're really quiet," he told them, "I can hit this next shot." The boys were in awe.

Now, though, for the first time, Jordan was really starting to get the golf bug. Already having missed much of the morning portion of the second round of this event, father and son were scrambling to get to Cottonwood Valley Golf Course. Shawn pulled the car into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant called Via Real that borders the course and, without giving it much thought, found a spot. They two of them hopped out and raced through the front gates.

Over the years, this would become an annual tradition.

"This is the event my dad and I would hop the fence to come in and watch," says Jordan, now 22, before quickly adding, "We also paid for tickets some years."

With a laugh, Shawn denies they ever snuck in.

"That's not true," he recalls. "We went in at 16 a few times and parked at a friend's place who had an office out there on the course. We walked in and nobody was there to check our badges, but we didn't hop a fence."

Exactly 10 years later, the little boy who watched that second round from his dad's shoulders wasn't just competing in the event. He was contending for the title.

Playing on a sponsor's exemption toward the end of his junior year at Dallas Jesuit High School, the younger Spieth posted rounds of 68-69-67 to move into a share of seventh place before a final-round 72 gave him a T-16 result.

Since then, Spieth has only missed one edition of the Byron Nelson -- back in 2012, when he was competing in NCAA regionals for the University of Texas. He has yet to replicate that title contention from his initial start, but having spent nearly one-third of his young life playing this event has given him a keen sense of its importance.

"This is my hometown event, the event [where] I learned to love golf," he explains. "To try and win this week would be a very, very special moment for me."

Not all of his love for the game started that Friday afternoon in 2000, but it certainly was sparked.

Shawn and Jordan watched Mickelson and Love each shoot 63 that day, two days before they would both lose in a playoff to Jesper Parnevik.

After the round, Jordan waited in an autograph line and was able to get Love to sign a hat that's still somewhere in the Spieth home today.

"Davis really engaged him," Shawn remembers of his son's current Ryder Cup captain. "They had a great conversation."

Jordan wanted Mickelson's autograph, too, and couldn't understand why he didn't get it.

"We just missed Phil," the father says. "He probably signed for an hour, but we missed him. Jordan was even asking questions about it. 'Why is he leaving?' I said, 'He's got dinner and family to get to.'"

After a few hours, Shawn and Jordan left the tournament, walked back to the Via Real parking lot and found an empty spot where their car had been.

Without a parking pass, the car had been towed away to an impound lot.

As it turns out, attending the tournament wasn't the only life experience for young Jordan that afternoon.

"He got to see what it was like when you get your car impounded," Shawn recalls with another laugh. "He was a little freaked out. He didn't like the razor wire on the fence. It was a new experience for him. First time for me, too. A new experience for both of us."

He remembers it cost him about $100 to get the car back.

"It's funny now," he says. "But at the time, it wasn't. I wasn't real happy about calling a taxi and having to get dropped off."

The story has a happy ending, of course.

Father and son finally made it home that evening, Jordan's burgeoning passion for the game only growing that day.

He is back at the Byron Nelson tournament this week, his sixth appearance at the event which first gave him a start back in high school. He's hoping that elusive victory will happen, one that would be special among his growing collection of trophies.

Even if it doesn't, though, Spieth has already won, in a way.

There will be no impound lot this time. He's got his own parking spot.