Western Australia's Curtis Luck has become just the third Australian to win the coveted US Amateur Championship in its 116-year history.
The 20-year-old was caught in a gripping tussle with American Brad Dalke over the morning 18 holes at Oakland Hills Country Club before going on an afternoon birdie run that saw him win the Havemeyer Trophy comfortably 6 & 4.
“It's obviously an amazing feeling to be named the US Amateur champion for 2016. It's something I've dreamt of since I was about 16,” Luck said.
“Oakland Hills is known as being one of the toughest major venues there is, and it's one that's stood up to time. To be a champion at such a tremendous golf course and a golf course that I had so much fun playing just means the world.
“I'd love to come back and play at some point in the near future because I really do enjoy playing this golf course a lot, and I think it's just amazing.”
After finishing the morning round all-square, Luck lost the 19th hole to fall behind for just the second time in the match.
It might have been the kick-start Luck needed or the urging advice from his father, Stuart, who was carrying his bag.
On the 20th hole (the par-5 2nd hole), Luck found the green in two shots and calmly rolled in the putt from 15 feet for eagle to square the match. At the next hole, a two-putt par was good enough to seize the lead back from Dalke.
He then went on to win the next six holes to complete an incredible eight-hole winning streak to be 7-up with nine holes to play.
Luck said it wasn’t until he was walking down the 10th fairway that it dawned on him he had won eight holes in a row.
“I was walking and talking to Dad as we do out there, and it just kind of clicked all of a sudden,” Luck smiled. “I thought, hang on, I'm 7 up and I was 1-down through the first hole of the second 18. I turned to Dad, and I said, ‘I've just won eight holes in a row’, and Dad said, ‘yep, you've got to win a few more in a row, too.’
“I actually just started laughing walking down the fairway because I haven't heard of that, and I haven't seen it before. Yeah, what an amazing thing to do whilst you're out in the final of the US Amateur Championship.”
The victory sees Luck’s name added to the prestigious Havemyer Trophy alongside some of the greatest players in the history of golf including Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson.
Luck said he was proud to join 2003 champion Nick Flanagan as well as Walter Travis (1901, 1902 and 1904) as Australian winners of the prestigious championship.
“It's insane, obviously, being the 116th year this year. There's three Aussies, that's not a whole lot, so I think that's pretty amazing to be one of those three, and I only hope that some more Aussies can get their name on the trophy because it's a great event with great players,” Luck said.
"I'm going to be an amateur for another however long, eight or nine months, and get to play some unbelievable golf tournaments within those months..." - 2016 US Amateur Champion Curtis Luck
“Yeah, I just think that the Australian culture within golf at the moment is sensational, and I think there's no way that there won't be more down the line.”
The reigning West Australian Open Champion will now receive invites to play the US Masters, US Open and The Open Championship in 2017.
Luck says he plans to stay an amateur to fulfil those invites, having previously toyed with the idea of turning pro after the Asian Pacific Amateur Championship in October.
“We've still got some big events coming up for the rest of the year like Asian Amateur and the Eisenhower Cup, which is the World Amateur, so I'm really excited to be able to say I'm going to play that this year,” he said.
“Winning here has definitely put a halt to what I was thinking ... most likely what I was going to do was turn pro after Asian Amateur in October. That's kind of where I was at, and I'd entered Tour schools thinking, yep, that's what's going to happen, knowing that there was a slim chance of something like this happening.
“I still don't believe it, but it did. I'm super happy to say that I'm going to be an amateur for another however long, eight or nine months, and get to play some unbelievable golf tournaments within those months, and I guess get even more experience for when I do turn pro.”
Luck is the second West Australian to win a major USGA Championship this year, following Min Woo Lee’s victory in the US Boys Championship last month.