If 22-year-old Luke Guthrie is feeling at all intimidated by his new job as a professional golfer, he is hiding it well.
Guthrie, a former All-America at the University of Illinois, has jumped into the challenge of competing on the Web.com Tour rather boldly. In three tournaments he's done well enough to rank No. 20 on the money list.
After losing to Ben Kohles in Columbus, Ohio, in a playoff at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational, Guthrie followed that up with a tie for third and on Sunday wound up finishing tied for 10th.
"For me it's been just playing my game," Guthrie said about his fast rise through the ranks of pro golf. "I try to make it a point that even though I was playing in my first PGA TOUR event I was nervous but I just focused on golf and just played my game. It's still just golf."
Before he settled on going full time on the Web.com Tour, Guthrie got his feet wet by playing in three PGA TOUR tournaments. In all three he finished inside the top 20. So in his six tournaments on the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour he's a remarkable 6-for-6 in making cuts.
In fact, he's finished inside the top 20 of all his pro events.
"I've tried to avoid thinking about the money or thinking about how much this putt would mean and things like that," Guthrie said about what's different from his amateur days. "I think that's not a good mentality to have ... I try to put the lowest score next to my name."
While Guthrie has embarked on his career, he's not about to forget about school. He still needs 13 hours to graduate with a degree in business management at Illinois and plans on being back in the classroom by the end of the month.
He will take two online classes but two other classes will require his attendance. He'll head back to Champaign, Ill., where he'll move into the apartment with his older brother, Zach, an Illinois assistant coach. Zach has also caddied for Luke in four of the six tournaments he's played in this season.
"School starts the 27th (of August) so I'm going to try and juggle school with playing on some of the Web.com events for the rest of the season," Guthrie said. "I'll find a way to make it work."
Guthrie says it's important to him and his family that he finishes school and just because he's done so well after turning pro hasn't changed his priorities.
"I put four years of hard work into school and I don't want to stop now," Guthrie said. "I want to get that degree and that's the backup plan. So I want to finish now because if I wait it's a lot tougher to get it done so that's why I'm going back to school this semester."
Guthrie credits coach Mike Small, his golf coach at Illinois, with his development. Small is also one of the top PGA professionals in the country and last week competed in the PGA Championship.
"I learned a lot in my four years of playing at Illinois playing under Coach Small and my brother and they taught me how to play the game," Guthrie said. "Even when you aren't playing your best you do everything you can to post a low score. I learned a lot there at Illinois."
One trait that Guthrie has is his optimism; something he says may have come from the fact that he's a lifelong Chicago Cubs' fan. He grew up in Quincy, Ill., and like a lot of Cubs' fans is usually finding a silver lining in everything.
|Inside THE 25|
"Being a Cub fan can be brutal," Guthrie said. "You have to be optimistic all the time and even when you lose by just one run that's kind of the bright side. I remember in 2003 they won that playoff series and that was awesome.
"Then of course we know what happened next against the Marlins and the foul ball and all of that."
As Guthrie presses on this season he is committed to the Web.com Tour even though he plans to be in school this semester. He says it will be a balancing act, but is up to the challenge.
"I'm going to play the Web.com Tour from here on out and try to secure my card that way," Guthrie said. "I made that decision after Columbus and I've had a good start and hopefully I can keep it going and keep playing well."
Guthrie has already gotten a taste of the PGA TOUR, and said to get to that tour full-time is the goal. He says the best way to do that is to finish in the top 25 on the year-ending Web.com Tour money list.
Guthrie says he has gotten to know Steve Stricker, who is also a former player at Illinois, and says to follow him onto the PGA TOUR would mean a lot.
"He comes back every year to help with a fundraiser for the program and I've met him through that and he's a great guy," Guthrie said about Stricker. "He's come back to school to watch basketball games as well. He's such a good guy."
Guthrie hopes to cross paths with Stricker a lot more in 2013.
"That's the goal and I'm trying to get to that and secure my (PGA TOUR) card for next year," Guthrie said. "Hopefully I can maybe play a practice round or even in a tournament with him at some point."
John Dell has covered golf for the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina for the last 18 years. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.