Things are getting real for Perth prodigy Curtis Luck.
This week the 20-year-old amateur was delivered one of the most prized possession of his blossoming career – an invitation from Augusta National to play as The Masters in April.
Luck had been expecting it, after earning his place alongside the world’s best following stirring successes at the US and Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships last year, but to get his hands on it was tangible evidence of the significant progress he made in 2016.
“I’ve known that I’m going to be playing but pulling out the invite – it almost sent shivers up my spine,” he said.
“That’s it, it’s set in stone now. As long as I’m healthy I’ll be there.”
The Cottesloe product has been catapulted into the national sporting conscious over the past 12 months as he rose to the top of the amateur game before further proving his credentials in the company of famed names such as Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott at the Australian Open in November.
As Spieth himself pointed out after playing alongside Luck in the first round at Royal Sydney: “He’s certainly got all the tools”.
It was a notable platitude from one of the world’s best players but even that, among a host of other recent ‘pinch yourself moments’ off the course, arguably pales in comparison to an Augusta invitation that would sit proudest in any pool room across the nation.
“It’s pretty cool,” Luck said.
“I had seen a few others posting to say they’d got their invitations and I was starting to wonder when mine would come….finally it has arrived.”
Luck’s excitement at playing The Masters is understandable – Augusta is golf’s VIP area. It’s exalted status built on stage-managed traditions and azalea-drenched backdrops to invigorate a grand sense of occasion that befits a stage for the world’s very best golfers.
There’s also the small detail of one of the sport’s most prized accolades being up for grabs.
The Perth amateur could therefore be forgiven for not wanting to pinch himself for fear of waking up as he is ushered down Magnolia Drive.
But while the affable Cottesloe product has turned his dream into reality he is not the type to get carried away in the moment.
Far from it. For Luck his childhood dream is only just beginning – turning professional beckons after Augusta – and he is smart enough to know that, not only has he earned his place, but most probably the really hard work is only just about to start.
It’s something that I’ve dreamed of happening and it has happened, he said.
“It’s a dream but I’ve earned it – I’ve practiced and played golf for 10 years and I’ve proved to myself that I can do it pretty well.
“The ‘pinching myself’ isn’t as big as it was maybe a couple of months ago. Now I’m just excited to get it underway and just start playing these events.
“I’m in a good position because I’m still an amateur and there’s not as much pressure on me. I can just worry about myself and do my best and if that’s good enough then that’s great. If not I’ll just have to go away and work harder.
“It’s what I’ve dreamed of doing pretty much my whole life and now I have the chance to do it, I’m just so excited to get this year underway.”
Luck’s list of high-profile appointments in 2017 begins on the European Tour next week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship when he is set to join a stellar field that includes three of last year’s major winners – Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett – as well as world number two Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
Luck will then take a week off ahead of events in Dubai and Malaysia before he returns home for the co-sanctioned World Super 6 Perth on familiar turf at Lake Karrinyup.
While Luck can afford to ease himself into the tournaments – knowing as an amateur that he needs not sweat about money or his place on the leaderboard – he still expects his competitive instincts will take charge as he aims to expand his growing reputation onto a wider stage.
“I’m a pretty competitive person so I’m always going to go into any event with the attitude that I want to win,” Luck said, ahead of flying out to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.
“These are all really big European Tour events with really strong fields so realistically the experience I’m going to gain out of these heading into the next few months is going to be the biggest factor.
I’m just going to take them as they come and just enjoy it while I can. At the same time I feel like I belong and that I can compete with these guys.
“I’m fortunate in my situation that I’m not paying for money and I’m not trying to make a living at this stage so I need to make sure that I’m having fun and that I’m still getting a lot out of the weeks regardless of the result.”
Luck heads into the new year refreshed after enjoying a Christmas break in Perth when he “literally didn’t do much” other than “relax, chill and catch up with mates” while also admitting his addiction to the game meant he was never far away from the driving range.
If his break was deserved it was also a good period to take stock of the year passed and begin planning ahead for the new challenges 2017 is set to provide.
A trip to Abu Dhabi in itself is new ground – Luck has never been to UAE before – and he enters the new year eyes wide-open to the new golfing challenges, both on and off the course, that are set to be presented.
“I just have to get my head around how full-on this year is going to be,” he said.
“I’ve played the last couple of years with a full-on schedule on the amateur circuit, but it’s not really been every week that I’m somewhere else or I’m away from home. That’s the way that this year is going to be.
“I love the travel factor of golf and seeing new places and new cultures. This year there may be more times when I am alone a bit more and have to find things to do away from the course.
“Me and my caddie Mike Montgomery are already looking at things we can do and I do have mates I will be around like (fellow West Aussie) Jason Scrivener and his caddie.
“As long as I can get my head around it and make sure that my planning is as good as it can be then that’s the most important thing. It should be a fun year.”