Curtis Luck trying to cash a check in pro debut

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Curtis Luck is making his pro debut in the Valero Texas Open, and at least he knows what to expect.

His last nine tournaments over the past six months have all been on professional tours.

“I’ve definitely got a lot of experience under my belt I can use this week to put a good couple of rounds in and have a good result,” Luck said.

The 20-year-old Australian made his final year as an amateur one to remember. Luck won the U.S. Amateur in August at Oakland Hills by defeating Brad Dalke of Oklahoma, 6 and 4. He decided to stay an amateur to take advantage of his invitation to the Masters, and then won the Asia Pacific Amateur last fall by one shot over Brett Coletta of Australia at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.

With the Masters behind him — Luck made the cut and tied for 46th — he’s ready to start getting paid.

For the second straight week, the top stars on the PGA Tour are staying home. Patrick Reed at No. 15 in the world is the highest-ranked player at the AT&T Oaks Course on the TPC San Antonio.

The field also includes Matt Kuchar, who is playing his fifth straight tournament, PGA champion Jimmy Walker and defending champion Charley Hoffman.

Kuchar’s long stretch began at the Dell Technologies Match Play, where he went 1-1-1 but failed to advance from his group. He missed the cut at the Houston Open and then has shown flashes that he could be on the verge of winning for the first time in three years on the PGA Tour. He made a hole-in-one on Sunday at the Masters and tied for fourth, and then he closed with a 64 at Hilton Head last week.

Hoffman also has had his share of chances.

He was tied for the lead with three holes to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational until a three-putt par on the 16th and a bogey from the bunker on the 17th. And then at the Masters, Hoffman opened with a 65 in 40 mph gusts — it was nearly 10 shots better than the average score in the opening round — and was only two shots out of the lead going into the final round until he closed with a 78.

Luck, meanwhile, made the cut in five of the nine professional tournaments he has played since last fall, with his best a tie for 11th in the Australian Open, five shots behind Jordan Spieth’s winning score.

He already has three more sponsor exemptions lined up as he tries to get a PGA Tour card. Luck said he has invitations to play in the Colonial, the Memorial and the Quicken Loans National.

The last two prominent amateurs to turn pro got off to strong starts.

Bryson DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Amateur the year before Luck, began his pro career after the 2016 Masters and tied for fourth at the RBC Heritage. That remains his best result in PGA Tour events that offer full FedEx Cup points (he was runner-up in Puerto Rico opposite the Match Play).

Jon Rahm made his pro debut last year after the U.S. Open and tied for third at the Quicken Loans National on his way to securing his PGA Tour card in a month. Rahm has since won at Torrey Pines and lost to Dustin Johnson in the final of Match Play.

“I guess there’s a little bit more pressure to perform,” Luck said. “As an amateur, you’re kind of paying money to go play and nothing comes out of it, where here, I’m starting to try to make a living,” he said. “But yeah, with my last six months of golf, I almost kind of in a way turned professional because I haven’t played an amateur event, like an actual amateur event, since October.

“I’ve kind of been professional for a while now playing these events,” he said. “Just haven’t been able to cash a check yet.”

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