Luck delays turning pro to compete in Masters

Curtis Luck was set to turn professional last summer when, as luck would have it, the U.S. Amateur changed the young Australian’s plans.

“To be honest, I felt ready last year,” said Luck, who won both the U.S. and Asia-Pacific amateur championships to qualify for the 2017 Masters Tournament. “I’d entered tour school and was at the point where if I qualified I was turning pro, and I didn’t have any issues with that because I felt like my game was there. I postponed things a little, but for good reason.”

Luck had good reason to think he was ready to start making money in golf. Last May, he became the third amateur to win the Western Australian Open. In June, he finished fifth in a Japan Tour event, tying 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel while beating three-time major winner Padraig Harrington and Ryder Cupper Victor Dubuisson.

But before entering tour schools in Japan and Europe, he chased one last “bucket list” item at Oakland Hills – the U.S. Amateur. He defeated Brad Dalke in the final to put his name on the Havemeyer Trophy and delay his career plans.

“I can definitely say I wasn’t expecting to go out and win the U.S. Amateur and have to wait,” he said.

Luck doubled up by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur in October to become the first amateur since Ryan Moore in 2004 to qualify for the Masters in two different ways.

“Heading into the Asian Am, there was a lot less pressure on me to perform,” he said. “That obviously makes my life easier heading into an event when the cherry at the end isn’t so important anymore. The really cool thing about the Asia-Pacific this year was going in there having a spot and meeting all of the Augusta members that come over for it.”

Luck has been gaining valuable experience as he bided his time until April. He played all three legs of the Australian swing at the end of last year, tying for 11th in the Australian Open and playing two rounds of the Aussie PGA with 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott.

“One thing Australia does really well is give the amateurs a lot of professional experience,” Luck said. “It’s about being in the field and the quality of players and matching yourself and starting to feel comfortable where you’re at. I thank the Australian PGA for doing that for us.”

He started 2017 by making three of four cuts in European Tour events, beating reigning Masters champion Danny Willett in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He’ll get to play with Willett in Augusta, as the Masters traditionally pairs its current winner with the U.S. Amateur champion.

His final tune-up was making his first start on the American PGA Tour at Bay Hill.

“They’ve all been really fun to play,” he said. “This is kind of the next step for me in the U.S. to play these kind of events and look forward to getting this next stage of my life underway.”

Hailing from Perth in Western Australia, it wasn’t convenient for Luck to pop over to Augusta for any scouting visits. He didn’t plan to get to Augusta until the Wednesday before Masters Week after playing in the Georgia Cup.

“(The Masters) has always been the event it didn’t matter what hour, I was always going to be up watching it every year,” he said. “To be playing in it is a different story, and I can’t even describe how I’m feeling about that. I don’t think I will until I drive down Magnolia Lane and have a better sense of the place.”

While Luck told reporters back home he was eyeing a top-10 finish in the Masters, his goals as the event approaches are more modest.

“Low (amateur) is something that would be awesome to tick off, but I’m pretty relaxed and I just want to go and enjoy it really,” he said. “It could be easy in that situation to become overwhelmed by the atmosphere of the event, so I just want to go and make the most of it, have fun and enjoy it with my family. I think if I get that stuff right, then the golf will probably come with it.”

Luck’s wait to turn professional is almost over. He plans to forgo his exemptions into the U.S. and British Opens and make the decision immediately after the Masters and try to follow the recent examples of Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm in making a quick transition into tour life. Delaying it further would probably just land him back at tour school in the fall.

“I’m feeling quite ready right now,” he said. “Got to see how my game stacked up against these guys in Europe and was pretty happy with where I stood. (The other major exemptions are) an opportunity that’s hard to pass up on, but it’s something that I think ultimately down the track I’m going to probably learn more from turning pro and hopefully utilize that experience better to get up to potentially nine events on the PGA Tour as an invite.”