Lukas Michel will make his long-awaited major debut at Winged Foot Golf Club this week, courtesy of his historic victory at the US Mid-Amateur last September.
The Perth-born, Melbourne-based 26-year-old became the first foreign player to claim the championship when he defeated American Joseph Deraney 2 & 1 at Colorado Golf Club 12 months ago.
“It was obviously incredible to be the first Aussie and first international player to win the US Mid-Am last year,” Michel told Golf Australia magazine.
“It was my intention, sort of before the week, that it was going to be my last hoorah in amateur golf – and I was going to turn pro the week after because I had starts in some pro events at the backend of the year in Australia. So I wasn’t thinking too much about winning until I got near the pointy end of the week and realised I could actually win the thing.
“I still have to kick myself to believe I’m going to be playing in two majors.”
Michel, who also earned an invitation to the Masters in November with his US Mid-Am victory, arrived in the US in early August to play the US Amateur at Bandon Dunes and has since spent the past month with friends in Michigan.
“I’m going to be as safe as possible, wearing a mask everywhere and I’m not going to be going to public places,” Michel said when asked about traveling within the US during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I still have to kick myself to believe I’m going to be playing in two majors.” – Lukas Michel
“I’m just going to play as much golf as I can out in the open air and limiting the potential for exposure, because if I do test positive for COVID-19 at any point on the trip, it’s virtually game over for me in terms of playing events.”
The Metropolitan Golf Club member added that he will be seeking out any Michigan-based courses that feature the type of long rough the US Open has become renowned for.
“I’m going to have to get used to playing out of thick rough – which we don’t get a lot of in Australia – and that could possibly be confronting,” Michel said.
“Hopefully when I’m in Michigan, I can go find a course with some really long rough and practice out of that.
“I’m obviously really looking forward to playing the US Open, though. Winged Foot is incredible. I played there in 2018. I know Gil Hanse has restored it recently, certainly since Geoff won there in 2006, and it’s a great course. I love it. I love my golf architecture and it’s one of the top courses in the world.”
The engineering graduate works at the Melbourne Golf Academy to pay the rent. But he has also been applying his design skills under the watchful eye of former touring pro turned course architect Mike Clayton.
In fact, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Clayton was right in the running to accompany Michel to Winged Foot to carry his clubs.
“Mike and I have played golf together ever since I moved to Melbourne and joined Metropolitan and we’ve become really good friends over the last seven or eight years,” said Michel, who will be joined by his regular caddie, Will Davenport, at the US Open.
“At the backend of last year, Mike split off from Ogilvy, Cocking and Mead and he needed someone to help out with drawing up plans, so he felt I might be able to help out in that department and now I’m one of his design associates.
“At the moment there’s obviously not too much happening. But eventually that’s certainly a possible career path that I would be interested in going down if playing golf professionally doesn’t work out.”
“None of the amateur events, except for the US Amateur, are running this year, so there’s actually a chance that I’ll get invited back for the majors next year, too.” – Lukas Michel
Michel confirmed he won’t be making the leap into the professional ranks until at least April of next year. Thanks, in large part, to the cancellation of most of the world’s major amateur events.
“I need to be mindful that none of the amateur events, except for the US Amateur, are running this year, so there’s actually a chance that I’ll get invited back for the majors next year, too,” Michel said.
Nevertheless, Michel fully intends to turn professional when the time is right and is looking forward to testing himself against the very best players at Winged Foot and Augusta National.
“I’ve always had intentions to turn pro since I was a young kid and funnily enough, winning the US Mid-Am has delayed things for me,” Michel said.
“Playing these two majors will be a really good test to see where my game’s at compared to the best players in the world.
“If I play horribly and get demoralised by the experience – which I obviously hope doesn’t happen – it might be a realisation that pro golf isn’t for me. But hopefully I play well and I can sort of egg myself on to turn pro and make a career out of it.”
Whatever the case may be, one thing is abundantly clear: Lukas Michel is destined for great things.