At the start of the week, Luke List was in Florida. By week’s end, he’s expected to be in Hawaii. Such is life for an aspiring professional golfer.
The PGA Tour and others offer tournaments where prize money can be lucrative. The key for up-and-comers is getting in those events. That can first require getting through a prequalifying competition, just to get in a qualifying tournament.
Luke’s father, Mark, said that’s the type of thing keeping his son busy at the moment. He went as far as Russia for an event last year.
“There’s no schedule,” Mark List said. “He could be in an airport thinking he’s headed somewhere and get a call saying he needs to go somewhere else. It’s quite a grind, but he loves it. It’s like 2,000 guys wanting five spots.
“Last year was a great learning experience. I couldn’t do it. He’s playing three times as much as he did in high school and college.”
The younger List’s name began appearing frequently in the Times Free Press sports section soon after he enrolled at Baylor in 1999. He eventually became a four-time All-Southeastern Conference selection at Vanderbilt and its first freshman All-American with his third-team nod in 2004.
Later that year he finished second at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., in the 104th U.S. Amateur tournament. That earned him a spot in the 2005 Masters in Augusta, Ga., where he tied for 33rd and led the field in driving distance.
List, who had been an alternate on the U.S. Walker Cup team in 2005, passed on any chance of playing in the international amateur competition two years later when he made his professional debut at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club in his third U.S. Open.
“I went back and forth for a long time because amateur golf and the Walker Cup meant a lot to me. But it’s just a great opportunity,” List said of turning pro in a June 12, 2007, story on golfweek.com. “It’s too tough to pass up. It’s going to help me in the long run get ready for Q-School.”
Baylor coach King Oehmig said he had never seen him swing a club until List’s freshman season, which he punctuated with the first of his four Division II East Region individual titles. He went on to spearhead three state-championship teams and one runner-up squad and was medalist at the state tournament as a junior and senior.
Oehmig said he would’ve never believed he would coach a player who would be playing in a U.S. Open three weeks after graduation but emphasized it was List’s maturity at a young age that was particularly impressive. He recalled the first time he saw List play in the William Bryan Memorial junior tournament at Lookout Mountain Golf Club. The teenager was seven holes into his round when he came to No. 1 and triple-bogeyed. Without any verbal or physical outburst he proceeded to No. 2 — arguably the toughest hole on the course — and birdied.
“I know any kid that can do that, show that kind of emotional control, has the opportunity to become great,” Oehmig said. “And he did.”
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.