Justin Thomas’ career may have rocketed into a new stratosphere in 2017, but he never will forget his first professional victory, which arrived in Malaysia in 2015 – just as David Lipsky, his fellow American, will not forget his.
Lipsky’s first pro victory arrived at the Asian Tour’s Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic five years ago, with Nick Faldo, the six-time major champion, standing by and watching at the 18th green. It marked a nice jumping-off point for Lipsky, a former All-American from Northwestern who made the bold decision to carve his way in the pro game outside the more comfortable, closer-to-home paths so many American players choose.
Lipsky won in his third Asian Tour start.
“It was right near the temples of Angkor Wat,” he said. “I went to the temples, saw some monks, ate the local food and won the tournament. All in all, a good week.”
He’s been on a nice run since. There was reason that Robert Frost found joy in writing poetry about the road less traveled. It can be a refreshing route. Lipsky, 29, keeps a residence in Las Vegas, but he truly is a man of the world. Having established himself early in Asia, he now is heading down the homestretch in his fourth – and most successful – European Tour season.
“I don’t know what home feels like, to be honest,” Lipsky said this summer. “I’m from Los Angeles, but live in (Las) Vegas.”
At the time, he was playing a fifth straight week on the road in a 12-month stretch that has taken him to Turkey, South Africa, across the Middle East, to Hong Kong, China, France, Scotland, to the Czech Republic, to South Korea and to many dots on the map in between. He mainly uses London as a base.
“I go hotel to hotel, flight to flight,” he said. “It’s tough to be living in the U.S. and playing anywhere outside the U.S. … It’s just difficult. It’s not for everyone.”
Challenging, yes, and rewarding, too. Lipsky’s standing on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit earned him a starting spot at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last week, where he competed alongside such stars as World No. 3 Hideki Matsuyama and No. 4 Thomas. Consider it one more opportunity in a growing number of them for Lipsky to measure himself against the game’s best. That’s all he really wants to do.
When he ventured to Asian Tour School fresh out of Northwestern, Lipsky traveled outside the borders of North America for the first time. Now, with a European Tour card in hand, he’s become a seasoned traveler.
“It’s a grind, but I really enjoy the travel, and I think it will make things better for me in the long run,” he said. “It all sort of fell into place for me. I won in Switzerland a few years ago (at the 2014 Omega European Masters), and that got me going in Europe. Full card out here, playing well, big events, being able to get into events like the Open Championship, it’s tough to turn that down to go play the Web, or Latin America (Tour), or Canada, or whatever.
“I just like competing against the best players that I possibly can. I’m doing that right now.”
One of his closest pals in Europe has been Peter Uihlein, who was the 2013 Henry Cotton Award winner as Europe’s top rookie. The two met in college and would play regular Tuesday practice rounds in Europe, where they’d also eat together and often stay in the same spots.
“David is a good guy, good player,” Uihlein says. “He’s very well-cultured, well-traveled. He always seems to know where to go, everyplace we go. I don’t know how he figures it out … but he knows where to stay, where to eat, and it definitely helps.”
Uihlein, who has played the European circuit in and out of Florida, will be on the PGA Tour in 2017-18, having graduated through the Web.com Tour Finals. Lipsky, who played the Web.com Tour in 2013, would like to join him closer to home one day, but for now he seems to enjoy the different route he chose.
“It’s sink or swim, to be honest,” Lipsky said. “You either get comfortable with it and enjoy it, or you don’t, and you sort of fall off. I think that’s what has toughened me up. I’m able to adapt to different places in the world to play. I think that really helps me as a player.”
That dog-eared passport Lipsky owns serves as a testament to his growth as a player. In golf, there are many ways to get to where a player wants to go.
(Note: This story appears in the Oct. 16, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)