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‘I Lost Control and Rebelled by Partying’

Lucas Herbert's journey to the Masters

November 15, 2022
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Golf wasn’t incredibly popular where I grew up in Australia. I wasn’t a massive fan of it right away, but I played because it was family time with my dad and grandfather. Other sports were faster paced, more fun. But when I was 11, kids started getting bigger. I was small and scared of getting knocked around. That pushed me toward golf.

I made the primary school team, and suddenly golf was all I wanted to do. My dad’s no golf genius, but he taught me how to hold the club and what a swing should look like. I started working with Dom Azzopardi when I was 13 and still work with him today. Now I can look after Dom financially, but back then, after a lesson, my dad would ask what we owed. Dom would ask, “What’s in your wallet?” It could be $20; it could be $80. We were fortunate to have Dom.

I missed a lot of school for golf. My mom was the assistant principal. She explained my absences to my teachers but told them to fail me if I didn’t do my work. When I was 18, I received scholarship offers from colleges in America, but I wasn’t keen on studying anymore.

I wanted more than anything to be a PGA Tour pro, but when I turned pro, I wasn’t convinced I could do it. I knew I was good. I’d been winning amateur and junior tournaments. As a teenager, I noticed I had this ability to get the ball in the hole in a way that my competitors couldn’t. I could get myself out of trouble and save par. I could make the putts that had to go in. My friends and parents believed in me.

I was on the Australian national team. All of us were broke, sweating $5 money games. The structure wasn’t working for me. I had to use their coaches and follow their rules. You must have faith in what you’ve got. When I couldn’t prepare how I wanted, I didn’t have faith. I lost independence and control and rebelled by partying and practicing the minimum. It wasn’t the right way to handle it. I was kicked out.

My parents encouraged me to use the setback as motivation. I reconnected with Dom, but at the New Zealand Open, I bogeyed three of the last four holes to miss the cut by a shot. My caddie, one of my best mates, said I could blame him if I wanted, but I had my own stuff to look at. “All these people around you are making sacrifices for you, and you’re not taking this seriously. You’re not putting in the work.” Hearing that from him, it hit me, and I started to really practice.

In the 2017 Australian Open, I was in the final group with Jason Day. This was the season after he was World No. 1. We juggled the lead all day, but Cam Davis ended up winning. I’d been a professional for two years but never had proof my game stacked up against the best. For the first time, I believed I could make it on the PGA Tour.

My game was good enough to earn a European Tour card for 2019. I put all this pressure on myself to win. Halfway through the season, I wasn’t sure I wanted to play anymore. My mental coach helped me realize that thinking only about winning made every week feel like a failure, so I set goals that weren’t result-based. I started playing nine holes after practice just for fun, re-learning the enjoyment of golf—2020 felt like a new beginning.

Then I won in Dubai. My approach on the first playoff hole went into the water. Everyone thought Christiaan Bezuidenhout had won, but I got up and down to force another playoff hole. I birdied it and won. I moved to Orlando, and when I had a break from the European Tour, I’d play Monday qualifiers and try to get invites to PGA Tour events. In 2021, I finished 18th at the Memorial and 19th at the Travelers. That got me into the Korn Ferry finals. I played well and clinched my PGA Tour card for 2022.

I was drunk when I booked my flight to Columbus for the next Korn Ferry event. I landed and gave the rental-car desk my confirmation number, and they said, “That’s in Columbus, Ohio.” I’m like, “Well, where are we?” They said, “Columbus, Georgia.” I flew out the next day, shot 69 and finished T-58.

I missed the cut in my first two PGA Tour starts as a rookie in 2021. I went to Bermuda, knowing the field was going to be weak. I was in the last group on Sunday. Some diabolical weather came through. I knew I could play in it and thought it would eliminate a lot of guys. Once I took the lead, I never lost it.

That win changed my season. The highlight was playing the 2022 Masters. I brought my parents and friends. My girlfriend, Maggie O’Shea, caddied for me in the Par 3 Contest. On the seventh hole, I nearly made a hole-in-one. Everyone was going crazy, and those who had believed in me despite my mistakes were there. It was a perfect moment.