The whirlwind tour for Curtis Luck since winning the U.S. Amateur Championship last August at Oakland Hills Country Club continues this week at Augusta National Golf Club.
Luck, 20, of Perth, Australia, went on to help his country win the World Amateur Team Championship last September in Mexico, then added the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship title to his resume the following month. Five PGA European Tour starts and one at Bay Hill served as his preparation for Augusta National.
The Masters is expected to be Luck’s final act in the amateur ranks, as he plans to turn professional after the year’s first major. By doing so, Luck will forfeit the spots in the U.S. Open and The Open Championship that he also earned with his U.S. Amateur victory.
Luck made his PGA Tour debut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in March, the day after he ascended to the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, supplanting Maverick McNealy. Unfortunately, he opened with a 7-over-par 79 and was disqualified after signing an incorrect score card following the second round.
It was a tough ending to what had been a challenging week. A few days prior, Luck’s practice time was limited due to a bout with food poisoning.
“It’s unfortunately one of those things; it’s the first time that I’ve actually been DQ’d,” said Luck, who signed for a par on his final hole instead of the bogey he actually made. “I had a really rough two days and, unfortunately, it got the better of me.”
But with Augusta on the horizon, there was still plenty to be excited about.
Luck contacted fellow Aussie Adam Scott in December to set up a practice round for Masters week, and the 2013 champion told Luck what he should expect on Augusta’s undulating greens.
“Adam said it’s all about managing yourself around the greens more than anything there,” Luck said. “You can’t miss it there; there are only certain spots where you can and you need to get your strategy down and figure out exactly what you’re going to do.”
Per tradition, as the reigning U.S. Amateur champion Luck will play with Danny Willett, the reigning Masters champion, in the first two rounds of the tournament. They'll be joined by 1997 U.S. Amateur champion and seven-time PGA Tour winner Matt Kuchar on the first tee at 12:24 p.m. EDT on Thursday.
“To be playing with Danny, I’m really excited for it,” Luck said. “I’ve met him and he’s a really nice guy.”
Another Masters tradition Luck is hoping to experience is the famous Crow’s Nest, an area under the clubhouse cupola where amateur competitors at the Masters traditionally stay.
“I’ve got a house for the week and was hoping I’d be able to stay (in the Crow’s Nest) before the week, but it turns out I can’t, though I might get up there for a night,” Luck said. “I’d love to, but at the same time, I’m there for the golf and I think ultimately being in a house with my family is probably the best result for me.”
His parents, Stuart and Jody, will attend with his sister, Jasmine; his coach, Craig Bishop; and his grandmother. Stuart caddied for Curtis at Oakland Hills.
A number of friends from Luck’s home course, Cottesloe Golf Club in Swanbourne, Australia, also plan to attend. There’s even word of a group of close to 300 Australians who will come out to support him and the other Aussies in the field.
Beyond getting to play in the Masters, Luck appreciates all of the opportunities that his U.S. Amateur win has created.
“It just opened up so many doors for me to obviously play golf all over the world,” said Luck.
His best finish against professional competition is a tie for 11th in the Emirates Australian Open in November. He also tied for 23rd in the European Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February.
Earning an invitation to the Masters via his U.S. Amateur title took some pressure off Luck in October, when he overcame a seven-stroke deficit in the final round to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur by one. The winner of that event also earns a spot in the field at Augusta.
“I was fortunate in that I didn’t have to put any pressure on myself to perform that week because I had already done what I needed to do to get into the Masters,” Luck said. “That was probably a massive contributor to my success there.”
After turning professional after the Masters, Luck hopes to start in as many as nine PGA Tour events, including the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, the Memorial and the Quicken Loans National.
If he hopes to play in the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, though, Luck will have to earn his way into the fields at Erin Hills and Royal Birkdale, respectively, via the qualifying route.
Garrett Johnston is a freelance sports writer and video producer.