By Mark Hayes, Golf Australia
THERE have been many classic US Amateur matches over the years, but nobody can recall anything similar to what Curtis Luck did this week.
Jack Nicklaus won an epic final in 1959, Tiger Woods in a 38-hole shootout in 1996; but none had won eight holes in a row on the brightest stage in world amateur golf.
Until Luck. (Pictured above. Photo: USGA)
The Perth ace turned all-square in the 36-hole final against Brad Dalke today, then watched the Oklahoman win the 19th to seemingly take the initiative.
But with dad Stuart on the bag urging him on, the 20-year-old then went on a charge they’ll speak of years around the hallowed Oakland Hills Country Club.
A perfect drive and then long approach to 7m on the par-five 2nd, his 20th hole, set up an eagle that sparked the longest run of consecutive holes won since the current match play format was adopted in 1973.
Eight holes later, the five-time West Australian state team rep had gone from 1-down to 7-up and the procession to a 6&4 victory from that point was simply a matter of time.
“I had my driver a bit more under control than I had all week here, which means lot on this course,” Luck said after becoming the second Australian – the third Australian-born – to win the Havemeyer Trophy.
“I got on the tee on the 2nd and hit a good drive and Dad said, `Now we’re on, this is it’.
“I took a step off the tee box , following behind Brad and something clicked.
“And from there, I didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes.”
That’s a very humble understatement.
On the Michigan club’s South Course Ben Hogan famously termed “The Monster” when he won the 1951 US Open at the same venue, Luck went four under par in his eight-hole stretch to put the issue beyond doubt.
“I think I started laughing walking down the fairway because I haven’t heard of that, and I haven’t seen it before,” Luck said of his run.
“What an amazing thing to do whilst you’re out in the final of the US Amateur Championship.”
Luck, who will represent Australia at the World Amateur Team Championship next month along with Cameron Davis and Harrison Endycott, is now exempt into the 2017 Masters, US Open and Open Championship.
He will now, naturally, defer his plans to turn professional so he can take up those rare opportunities as an amateur.
“We grow up at home in Australia … and it’s a massive thing for us come over to the US, and from then on it’s the pinnacle and means everything,” Luck said of his prize.
“From 16, this is why I practise every day and work hard; the US Amateur is the championship that I’ve looked up to and thought that’s the one thing I want to have my name on.
“Obviously there’s not a lot of Aussie names on this trophy, and I’m absolutely blessed to be one of them, but I’m sure there’s many more of them down the track.
“I think that’s pretty amazing to be one of those three, and I only hope that some more Aussies can get their name on the trophy because it’s a great event with great players.”
New South Welshman Nick Flanagan won the US Amateur in 2003, while Walter Travis, who was born in Victoria in 1862 before moving to the United States 1886 and taking up golf as a 35-year-old and winning the 1900, 1901 and 1903 titles as an American citizen.
Remarkably, Luck (Cottelsoe) is the second West Australian in as many months to win a major USGA trophy after Min Woo Lee (Royal Fremantle) won the US Junior Amateur Championship in Tennessee in the same week that another WA rep Fred Lee (Royal Perth) reached the quarter-finals.
In between, Hannah Green (Mt Lawley) reached the quarter-finals of the Women’s US Amateur, too.
Luck paid special tribute to his family in attendance in Michigan this week.
“I’ve been very luck to be surrounded by people I know, so I felt at home and that’s not normally the case when you‘re travelling internationally. It makes a huge difference,” he said.