The 34th annual FOG Charity Golf Tournament held on Monday, April 22nd at the prestigious Bel-Air Country Club was another GREAT success! The highlight of the evening’s festivities was the interview with the 2013 FOG Honoree, Luke Donald.
Tim Rosaforte, on-air commentator for The Golf Channel and senior writer for Golf World, entertained the audience with interesting and probing questions for Luke on being the number one golfer in the world for 40 consecutive weeks and 55 aggregate weeks. Luke shared stories of his life in his hometown of Chicago, his amateur career, his hopes to win his first major, and of his commitment to young golfers through his involvement with The First Tee. It was also revealed that he once had a string of 449 holes without a three-putt green. (Try that all you FOG attendees out there!).
Born December 7, 1977, in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England, Luke Donald developed a taste for golf early in life while playing junior golf at Hazlemere and Beaconsfield Golf Clubs with his brother Christian. Donald was the club champion of Beaconsfield twice, first winning the championship at the age of 14.
When Donald took a golf scholarship at Northwestern University in suburban Chicago in 1997, it was his first trip overseas. While at Northwestern, Donald was a three-time, First Team All American. He was considered by many to be the top college player in the country, winning 13 college events including the 1999 NCAA Championship. He also won the Golfstat Cup in 1999, awarded for the lowest stroke average for the year, beating the previous best set by Tiger Woods. Donald studied art theory and practice, and was also a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.
Donald turned professional in 2001; he is currently a member of both the PGA and European Tour. The following year, Donald won the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, becoming only the 11th rookie in PGA TOUR history to earn more than $1M in his first season. In 2006, Donald reached the top ten in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career after his win at The Honda Classic. He has been a proud member of the 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012 Ryder Cup teams. In 2011, Luke made history again by finishing number one on the PGA and European Tour Money Lists, earning him Player of the Year on both tours and ultimately the title of World Number One. Donald held the #1 World Ranking status for 56 consecutive weeks.
While professional golf is his primary profession, Donald’s family remains his top priority. He resides just outside Chicago with his wife, Diane and their two young daughters, Elle and Sophia. Donald still has a longstanding interest in art and wine; painting in his free time and crafting wines with Illinois-based Terlato Wines. In addition, Donald’s passion for giving back has prompted his work with The First Tee of Chicago and the Ronald McDonald House.
Q & A with LUKE DONALD
FOG: How do you split your time between the Europe and America tours, and what drives your decision for what events to play in?
LUKE: I still play 75% of my golf on the US Tour, but I enjoy being a member of both Tours. Playing around the world makes me a better and more rounded player. I try to play in events where I think I have a good chance of winning, but I also look at the schedule and try and get a good run of events in, take a week or two off and then play another few events – this type of rhythm usually works best for me.
FOG: How do you handle the travel requirements?
LUKE: That’s the toughest thing about being a member of both Tours – there is a lot of travel so it’s really important to manage your energy levels and make sure at the beginning of the year that you have plenty of rest This year I decided to skip the Middle East stretch on the European Tour just for that very reason – and remember the goal is to be ready and rested enough to play great at the Majors.
FOG: With time changes and pro/am’s do you have a secret for conserving your time and energy?
LUKE: Again, I tend to take a longer off season than most players – taking time away from the game is very important – not only can I use the time to relax, but my appetite for playing is so much more when I pick up my clubs again. Time changes can be tough sometimes, but again I make sure I get to the tournament at least 3 days before it starts, so I can acclimatize myself enough to be ready on Thursday. I see pro-am’s as a great opportunity to play the course the day before the tournament starts – not every player has that luxury – you also meet some great and very influential people along the way – it’s what makes golf so special – in no other sport can amateurs really play alongside the professionals.
FOG: Will you play any events on the Asian tour and if so which ones and why?
LUKE: This is year I plan to play in the Maybank Malaysian Open in March – one because it’s a great opportunity to play in an event reasonably early in the season that counts towards the European Tour, and two, I’ve heard some great things about the event from some of my peers that have already played the event before. There is also a good chance I will play in China and Japan at the end of the year too, which I always look forward to.
FOG: You play on the European Ryder cup team but live in America. Do you ever feel conflicted?
LUKE: No never, I still consider myself very much British and am proud to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love living and playing in the US, it’s really an amazing place, but when it comes to representing your country, then you have to stay true to your heritage.
FOG: How has golf in general and the PGA tour in specific changed since you joined it in 2002?
LUKE: As a player, my single most important goal each year is to simply improve, and looking back to my first year, I’ve been very fortunate to fulfill that goal each and every year. A lot of my success has come from doing what I can to just make sure I keep getting better. As a whole, the PGA Tour and golf is in a good place right now. The interest in the game continues to grow each and every year, and it’s nice to be a part of such an honourable game.
FOG: How do you view the future of golf? Longer hitters, more short courses with a premium on accuracy, more competition, and better scoring records?
LUKE: Certainly in the last couple of decades, we have seen the rise of the bomber – the golfers are in better shape and technology has also helped everyone hit the ball further. Architects have reacted to this and are building longer golf courses, but for me that isn’t really the answer. In my opinion golf courses don’t need to be long to be difficult, there are many classic golf courses that have stood the test of time, and hopefully some of the modern golf course designers will see this and changing their ways.
FOG: After the tour do you have goals? Will you design and/or build courses, play the senior tour or something quite different from golf?
LUKE: I haven’t really thought ahead to the future, but if my desire to compete is still there at age 50 then sure, I would love to play the Senior Tour. I’d love to also continue to get into golf course design, where as I said earlier, I’d love to build golf courses that didn’t need length to make them difficult. If I am still playing competitive golf in my fifties, I don’t think I would play quite as many events as I do now, as I would love to spend a bit more time with my children as they grow up.
FOG: Was the number one ranking one of your goals? Do you have others, what are they?
LUKE: When I had the opportunity to get to #1, then sure, it was a goal of mine to try and get there. I think every golfer aspires to be as good as they can be, and for me to know that my best was good enough to be #1 was truly very satisfying, it was a very proud moment in my career. Again what got me there, was an obsession with concentrating on solely improving, day by day, week by week, year by year – concentrating on the fundamentals and processes of that gradual improvement each and every day – that is my #1 goal and always will be.
FOG: If you were a high school player with a good game and an ambition to go to the tour what would you recommend they do to achieve their goal?
LUKE: I would recommend they go to college and make sure the coach is an actual coach that understands the golf swing – college for me was some of the best years of my life, and everyone should experience that – there is no rush in golf to turn professional, if you are good enough to succeed at the highest level then you will be able to compete for 20-30 years, you don’t have a small time frame to be competitive as is the case in many other sports. Like anything, to be successful you have to work at it, and then you have to test your skills against the best competition. Diligent practice and playing lots of tournaments is the best way to find out if you have what it takes.