USC’s Lovemark to turn pro

University of Southern California's Jamie Lovemark during the Isleworth-UCF Collegiate Invitational at Isleworth Golf and Country Club.

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Jamie Lovemark will not return to USC in the fall for his senior season and intends to turn professional, USC head coach Chris Zambri told Golfweek Thursday.

Lovemark, No. 20 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, informed Zambri of the decision before last week’s NCAA West Regional.

“I think I’m ready,” Lovemark said. “College has been awesome ..., but I’m ready to move on with my life. Being professional is a huge challenge, so I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully it will push me harder and make me a better player.”

Lovemark said that he does not have any sponsor exemptions lined up. He said he has not signed with any sponsors or agents.

“We’re working on that,” Lovemark said.

Zambri also said that sophomore Tim Sluiter will turn pro after the season. Sluiter, of The Netherlands, is No. 35 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

Lovemark, 21, the 2007 NCAA champion, said he will be out for another 2 to 3 weeks with a fractured rib that forced him to withdraw from the final round of last week’s NCAA West Regional; he injured the rib two weeks ago in practice. The injury will cause Lovemark to miss the NCAA Championship and Palmer Cup.

Ryan Linton will replace Lovemark in USC’s lineup for the NCAA Championship, while UCLA senior Erik Flores will replace Lovemark on the U.S. team for the Palmer Cup.

Lovemark said he may try to play U.S. Open sectional qualifying June 8 at Saticoy Country Club in Somis, Calif. He earned an exemption through local qualifying because he represented the United States in the ‘07 Walker Cup and ‘08 World Amateur Team Championship; because the exemption was awarded for his performance in amateur golf, Lovemark must remain amateur for sectional qualifying and the U.S. Open, if he qualifies.

He said he currently can putt and hit some chip shots, but wants to be cautious about his return.

It has been an injury-marred season for the native of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. He missed two tournaments after breaking his left pinky finger playing basketball in February. His tie for 24th at the Pac-10 Championship was his best finish in four starts since returning from the injury.

Lovemark had top-10s in all four of his starts before breaking the finger, including a runner-up finish at the UH Hilo Invitational. He called his play before the broken finger, “Some of my best golf I’ve played, I guess in my life.

“I think my game was going in the right direcction.”

Lovemark has been unable to match his results from his freshman season, when he won four times, including the Pac-10 and NCAA titles. He won the Jack Nicklaus Award (player of the year) and Phil Mickelson Award (freshman of the year).

Later that year, he went 3-0-0 to help the U.S. win the Walker Cup, lost to Chris Riley in a playoff at a Nationwide Tour event and posted the two best PGA Tour finishes of his career, a T-39 at the Buick Invitational and T-45 at the AT&T National. He also advanced to the third round of the U.S. Amateur, his best showing at that event.

Lovemark was a GCAA first-team All-American in both his freshman and sophomore seasons, but has not won since his first year at USC.

Lovemark has made the cut in five of eight PGA Tour events during the past three years. Last year, he did not finish better than 60th in six starts on the PGA and Nationwide tours, missing three cuts.

He also won the ’05 Western Amateur at age 17 to become the youngest champion in tournament history. He was medalist at last year’s North & South Amateur before losing to Matt Savage in the final.

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