Curtis Luck’s road to U.S. Amateur glory a memorable one for father and son

Curtis Luck’s road to U.S. Amateur glory a memorable one for father and son

Amateur

Curtis Luck’s road to U.S. Amateur glory a memorable one for father and son

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Curtis Luck remembers the first time his dad Stuart caddied for him. Luck was 12 years old and was playing his first junior tournament, an 18-hole competition at Mandurah Country Club in Halls Head, Australia, about an hour south of their home in Perth.

Not only did his dad get lost on the way to the event, the two arriving less than a half hour before Curtis’ tee time, but Luck also showed up with less-than-ideal clubs.

“He had these little PGA junior clubs, and he got down there and all these kids he was playing against – because we didn’t know the golf world – they had proper golf clubs,” Stuart Luck said, “and I felt like he was almost the butt of a joke.”

Luck was also grouped with a hotshot junior girl named Minjee Lee, who is now an Olympian and the 17th-ranked golfer in the world.

“She was very impressive then as she is now,” Luck said.

Lee holed out on the fourth hole for eagle, and as Curtis recalls, he was “jumping around more than she was.” He didn’t jump for long, though.

Bad weather suspended play a couple times during the day, mosquitoes that Stuart likened to “the size of sparrows” annoyed them from under their umbrella, and mud splashed nearly up to their thighs as they trudged through the round. But it didn’t matter.

Luck shot 116 that day, finishing last.

“It was a great day. It was sensational. I enjoyed it a lot,” Luck said, sarcastically. “And I walked off the golf course in tears.”

Some eight years later, the Lucks were walking off the 14th green Sunday at Oakland Hills Country Club’s South Course with different kinds of tears. With Stuart on the bag, Luck defeated Brad Dalke, 6 and 4, in the final match of the 116th U.S. Amateur, becoming just the third Australian to win the Havemeyer Trophy, which Luck will keep in his bedroom for the next year.

“Just somewhere I can lay back and look at it,” Luck said. “Yeah, I might have some sleepless nights when it comes back.”

What a dream week it was for Luck, who rallied into match play and as the 28th seed defeated Andrew Huseman, Davis Riley, Cameron Young, Sahith Theegala and local boy Nick Carlson to earn his spot in the final against Dalke, a sophomore at Oklahoma whom Luck first met at the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur, where Luck was a semifinalist.

In the final, Luck won eight straight holes in the afternoon portion of the scheduled 36-hole championship match, beginning on the par-5 second, his 20th hole. (The run is believed to be a U.S. Amateur record since the championship went to its current format in 1973.)

“I walked up the 10th … and I was walking and talking to Dad as we do out there, and it just kind of clicked all of a sudden,” Luck said. “I thought, hang on, I’m 7 up and I was 1 down through the first hole of the second 18.

“I turned to dad, and I said, ‘I’ve just won eight holes in a row.’”

Luck turned to dad a lot this week. Because of Luck’s busy travel schedule, he isn’t able to have his dad, who works full-time and also coaches U-16 girls basketball back in Perth, loop very often. Luck is glad things worked out.

“It’s so great to be able to kind of go back and forth from dad over every shot out there,” Luck said. “He’s a pretty good green reader. Occasionally, he throws in a bit of a spastic read, but most of the time he’s pretty much spot-on.”

The lovable jabs are common between the Lucks. They have a special relationship and share the same sense of humor. Luck says his dad tells it like it is, and that matter-of-fact personality showed itself after Luck made a mess of his 19th hole, the first back after a nearly two-hour lunch break.

“The 19th out there was pretty rough,” said Luck, who missed a drive right at the par-4 first, only advanced his second shot some 70 yards in right rough and then sent his third over the green before hitting a heavy chip.

“I would have been lucky to make that putt for bogey. But my dad, who usually likes being very obvious with his statements out on the golf course said, ‘OK, now we need to play some good golf,’ and I turned to him, and I went, ‘Thanks, dad, you’re spot on.’”

Of course, Luck played some good golf after that, championship-winning golf, in fact. And Stuart was there on the 14th green – his wife Jody and parents Graham and Pat were also there – to watch his son honored at the trophy presentation.

Luck has won big events before, most notably the Western Australian Open, pro event, in May. He also was runner-up in that event last year and was T-5 at the ISPS Handa Global Cup, where he beat Victor Dubuisson and Padraig Harrington among other pros. But if you ask Stuart, none of those performances compare what happened Sunday at Oakland Hills.

“This is to me a much biggest achievement,” Stuart Luck said.

Now, Stuart will get to see his son compete in next year’s Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, plus likely a handful of PGA Tour starts, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Memorial. Luck was set to turn pro after the Asia-Pacific Amateur in October, but now has to put those plans on hold.

“It was something I always was thinking might happen,” Luck said. “I’m very happy with staying amateur.”

Curtis Luck has come a long way since his dad caddied for him in his first tournament some eight years ago. He’s no longer the butt of a joke.

Stuart Luck remembers standing behind Lee’s mom Clara during that event, and her saying, “Who is this Curtis Luck and why’s he drawn with my daughter?”

“And she was right,” Stuart said, “why was he drawn with her?”

Who is Curtis Luck now? Well, for one, he is one of Australia’s bright young talents. He is the world’s seventh-ranked amateur (and likely to go higher come Wednesday). He is a U.S. Amateur champion.

Oh, and he has one proud pops.

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