Midtown: Sports

UNC’s List chose his own path in golf

Luke List’s father was an All-America swimmer at North Carolina in the 1970s.

List’s mother also was an All-America swimmer for UNC and was awarded the Patterson Medal as the school’s outstanding senior student-athlete in 1980. One of List’s sisters, a graduate from UNC this spring, also swam for the Tar Heels.

So naturally, when it came time to decide where to play golf in college, List chose ... Vanderbilt.

“Oh, I’m still a big fan. I love UNC basketball,” said List, 27. “But Vanderbilt kind of pulled me away.”

The leading money winner this season on the Nationwide Tour, List competed in this week’s Rex Hospital Open, which began Thursday at TPC Wakefield Plantation. List put in his time in the pool with the family in Chattanooga, Tenn., and he was a competitive swimmer up until high school. But he kept gravitating toward the golf course.

“Hitting balls was a little more fun than swimming laps,” he said Wednesday, smiling.

A good choice, given List’s success on the golf course this year.

He won the South Georgia Classic the last week of April, and then tied for second the next week in the Stadion Classic at the University of Georgia. He claimed another runner-up finish this year and almost $224,000 in winnings – a big step toward his goal of gaining playing rights on the PGA Tour next year.

“This year, the big key has been patience,” he said. “I’ve been a lot more patient on the golf course and just been nice to myself.”

List was the runner-up in the 2004 U.S. Amateur, earning a spot in the 2005 Masters; he was an All-America at Vanderbilt, and played on the U.S. Palmer Cup team in 2007. But once out of college, he stumbled in the PGA Tour’s Qualifying Tournament – the dreaded Q-School – and spent time on the mini-tours and playing in Monday qualifiers trying to get into Nationwide events.

“You can have a great college career, and it can still take time,” List said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it. There’s been some great careers on the PGA Tour that don’t start until the late-20s or early 30s. You have to keep telling yourself that.”

List said he can relate to John-Tyler Griffin, a Wilson native and former Georgia Tech star who failed to get through the first stage of Q-School last year. Griffin, 25, has no playing status on the Nationwide Tour and was in Greensboro on Monday for the Rex qualifier at Grandover, playing his way into the field with a 63.

“It’s tough,” Griffin said. “There were 300 guys playing for 14 spots. It’s not the best way to do it, but for me the only way.”

Told of Griffin’s comments, List nodded.

“I’ve been there, man, and paid my dues in a lot of Monday qualifiers,” he said. “It’s hard. I think I’ve taken a few punches and kind of feel this is my time now.”

List said his parents will swing through town this week to lend some support while picking up his sister, Sarah, in Chapel Hill.

His father Mark List graduated from UNC in 1978 and was a teammate of Tar Heels head swim coach Rick DeSelm. His mother, Bonny Brown List, graduated from UNC in 1980.

Luke List was recruited to play golf by UNC, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, among others. He was impressed with Vanderbilt and also liked former Commodores assistant coach Press McPhaul, who played golf at N.C. State and now is the head coach at East Carolina.

ECU competed in its first NCAA Championship this week, qualifying in the regional played on the University of Georgia course in Athens, Ga., the same course that hosted the Nationwide tournament.

“I sent (McPhaul) my yardage book,” List said. “I hope it helped.”

List missed the cut in the last Nationwide event, the BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina. But he spent some down time at his new apartment in South Florida. He likes the TPC Wakefield course and hopes to be among the contenders this weekend.

“It’s hard to play well every week,” List said, shrugging off the missed cut. “Everybody out here is good. My game is fine.”