LAKE MARY, Fla. – Ken Looper wasn’t planning to make the 10-hour drive to central Florida, let alone play the first two events of his pro career. Last-minute decisions often turn out for the best, though.
Looper’s former LSU teammate, John Peterson, called Jan. 19, asking if Looper wanted to accompany him on the 10-hour drive from Louisiana to the Sunshine State. They left two days later. That decision was worth $15,762 and priceless confidence as Looper begins his first pro season.
Looper won his low-key pro debut five days later on the NGA Tour’s Winter Series, shooting 13-under 203 last week at Diamondback Golf Club in Haines City, Fla. He finished fifth Thursday at Timacuan Golf Club in Lake Mary. Andrew Loupe, who played with Peterson and Looper at LSU, won at Timacuan. Peterson finished fifth and 16th, respectively, in the two events.
“I was just playing golf at home,” Looper said. “It’s nice to know I can play with the guys out here. I didn’t know that until I came out.”
There wasn’t much time for celebration among the Tigers trio, though. All three left Timacuan on Thursday to make the lengthy drive back to their home state.
The tournaments were Looper’s first starts since the Western Amateur in August. He returned to LSU this fall for one final semester, graduating in December with a degree in marketing. Looper, who won the Louisiana Amateur and Cotton States Invitational, a top regional event in the Southeast, in 2010, played one season at LSU after three seasons at the University of New Orleans.
The former college teammates all are seeking to gain status on a major tour this year, mostly through Monday qualifying for Nationwide Tour events. The tour’s first domestic stop, the March 22-25 Chitimacha Louisiana Open, is in their home state.
Peterson has been hoping to earn sponsor exemptions into PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour events because of his sterling amateur resume. He was one of the world’s top 10 amateurs after a victory at last year’s NCAA Championship and runner-up at the Nationwide Tour’s event in Columbus, Ohio. He hasn’t had much luck getting invitations, however. His only sponsor exemption as a pro was to the European Tour’s Africa Open, where he missed the cut.
“I go from week-to-week, not knowing where I’m going to play next week,” Peterson said. “You just have to be ready at a moment’s notice.”
Loupe, a two-time All-American, made three Nationwide Tour starts last year, finishing 18th twice. He also Monday-qualified for the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic as an amateur but missed the cut. He won his site of Q-School’s first stage by four shots, but missed out at second stage. He also will try his hand at Monday qualifying.
“You have to earn everything,” he said. Loupe and his teammates proved that this week, going to great lengths to gain experience.