Date: August 19, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Luck powers into #USAm quarters

Perth’s Curtis Luck has roared into the quarter-finals of the US Amateur Championship in Michigan.

Luck capped a remarkable day with six scintillating birdies on the South Course at Oakland Hills Country Club to take down American Cameron Young 6&4.

While Young had earlier been forced to play 23 holes in his round of 32 match, Luck was almost as impressive in the morning session, taking down No.5 seed Davis Riley 4&2.

But weariness wasn’t near as large a factor as Luck’s dominance.

When the pair shook hands on the 14th green, the Cottesloe Golf Club ace was five under on a layout that the players have referred to as the “Monster” all week.

Luck, who turned 20 earlier this month, will next play Californian 61st seed Sahith Theegala for a spot in the final four, teeing off at 1.45am Australian WST (3.45am AEST).

The five-time WA state team representative, No.7 in the world, was also the beneficiary of other results today with the other four highest-ranked players around remaining in the final 16 eliminated. The next highest-ranked player remaining is Indian's Dylan Meyer at No.35.

Almost unbelievably, at No.28, he’s also the second highest remaining seed behind Florida’s Luis Gagne at No.10 after a marathon day of upsets.

But the reigning WA Open champ was in no mood to get caught up in the carnage around him.

“I didn't make a whole lot of errors. I probably made one bogey … which that's pretty good going on a course this tough (and) I made a few birdies to go with that,” said Luck, who’s found the course’s challenge to his liking.

“I just don't think I did much wrong, to be honest. And he probably just hit a couple of shots that weren't up to his usual standard.

“These courses come down to strategy at the end of the day, and if you can miss it in the right spots all day and make up-and-downs and whatever, basically it means that you're going to be pretty close to winning a lot of matches.

“It's a super tough golf course, so it does require lots of pars, a few birdies, with the way they're setting it up, because they are putting some tees forward and some good pins out there for those birdies. Yeah, the course is playing awesome.”

Luck rammed home his early edge with a slice of fortune on the 10th when he was lying poorly in a “really thick, juicy lie” in the rough about 130m from the pin.

“I actually just ripped it with a 7-iron and it came out top spinning and landed just short and rolled up to about a foot, so it was kind of a bit of a guessing game, but it worked out my way,” he said.

“And then 11, I actually got pretty unlucky with the lie I drew in the rough. I was kind of nearly standing in the bunker playing out of it. But I just managed to sneak one up there on the green, and unfortunately for Cam, he three-putted, and I just two-putted and walked off the hole.”

Luck then hit tight approach shots to 13 and 14, after which birdies were conceded.

“It was a good way to finish. Really strong. Yeah, happy with that.”

Luck’s progress has continued the extraordinary West Australian surge at USGA events in the past month.

After Royal Perth’s Fred Lee reached the quarter-finals of the US Boys’ title, he watched Royal Fremantle’s Min Woo Lee go all the way to become the first Aussie to win that coveted prize.

Mount Lawley’s Hannah Green also charged to the quarter-finals of the Women’s US Amateur this month, prompting recognition from the host USGA of the powerhouse Perth program.

Luck, who’s been selected to represent Australia in the upcoming World Amateur Team Championship, paid tribute to those around him who’ve helped that progress.

“I just think they're very good at telling us how hard we need to work, and that's not anybody in particular, I think that's just our coaches and our supporting groups like our strength and conditioning and our physios,” Luck said.

“I think they're really good at driving into us how hard we've got to work and how well we've got to train to obviously compete at the next level, which is playing professionally.

“And so I think that's really making us more ready in these big amateur events.

“I'd say I think we've got really good teams, and I would say, too, we're generally very hard-working. Not saying that anyone isn't, but that's something I do notice is the Aussies do work very hard.”

He also paid tribute to good mate fellow West Aussies Brady Watt and Oliver Goss for their inspiration at USGA events in recent northern summers.

“Gossy obviously made the final of this event and (went) on to play the Masters and making the cut (to be) leading am. I think we watched that and go, that's where we want to be obviously before we turn pro.

“You could say there's a couple of guys, but I think we all have learnt with these great events that you guys hold here, there's great rewards up for offer at the end of the tournament.

“Over time, it's just (that) people have decided that this is the place to play.”