CAlsbad’s Luciano Conlan focused on his sight while his dad Josh worked out his punchline.
Even Conran Sr. served as his son’s caddie at this week’s prestigious U.S. Amateur game in New Jersey.
“His dad’s jokes are a little bit less stressful,” Luciano said. “It helps me relax.”
The USGA’s oldest golf tournament in the nation is full of tension. This is an impressive list of winners for the 122nd edition. Those who lifted the Harvey Mayer Trophy included Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson of Rancho Santa Fe.
Maybe Luciano will join them as a champion, or maybe another golfer with North County blood. In addition to Luciano in the 312-man field at Ridgewood and Arcola Country Club, there are Luke Potter of Encinitas and Dylan Oyama of Carlsbad, who also play at San Diego State.
Luciano’s hard work on the qualifying scene at Hokkare Country Club in Hawaii earned him a ticket to the U.S. Amateur. With his father, Luciano won the game comfortably 68-71, despite his groaning over his father’s delivery order.
“Right now, we’re doing inside jokes and one-liners in movies,” Josh said. “He really liked The Great Gatsby, so I call him ‘Old Sports.'”
That’s rich, because left-handed Luciano does have an old soul with a sensible take on golf. Instead of feeling pressured to hit the ball, he didn’t put his expectations in the golf bag his father was carrying.
Instead, Luciano treats every shot as his own trade rather than reflecting on what he did or what came before him.
“I try to avoid that,” he said. “It leads to a lot of pressure and it’s easy to get frustrated on the pitch if I treat everything like a life-or-death situation.”
So the Conlan combination approached the qualifiers with a carefree attitude. That island vibe worked, and so did Luciano’s flat blade.
“I putt really well, hitting 15 feet and 20 feet and hitting the ball well,” he said. “It was a pretty smooth game.”
The 17-year-old Luciano avoided the rough most of the time, which was reflected in his first-round scoring. His game was hard to charge when strong winds accompanied the second and final round.
That gave Luciano, a well-known junior golfer, a verbal commitment to UCLA in one of the most decorated events of the USGA.
“Once I was done, I said, ‘Okay, I know I can play for the U.S. Amateur,’ and that’s my goal,” he added.
Golfers and caddies have a 30-year age difference, but it seems they’re on the same page. They kept it loose for 18 holes, which was easier said than done.
“He did a great job because he made me laugh,” Luciano said. “The more I enjoy myself, the better I perform, and that’s the key.”
This allowed Josh to unlock more material.
“I’m not going to give too much advice,” he said.
What would golfing Conlan suggest to others to improve their game? He mentions that North County’s popular workout isn’t a stretch.
“Yoga,” he said. “It really improved my flexibility and allowed me to turn and pass better.”
Luciano has always been keen on his short game. Now his driving has improved, and he points to yoga as the reason.
“It’s crazy, but yoga just makes you feel different,” he said.
He’ll be looking for more of the same from Pops. That was to provide some laughs during his son’s stress-free game.
“Sometimes when you’re in a race you expect to be in a race, and that doesn’t happen,” Luciano said. “It’s even more important if I can enjoy the experience and actually have fun, and I seem to be doing better.”
Contact Jay Paris exist [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports