Photo by Ron Lewis
Former Northwestern Star Tees It Up on Tour
Growing up in England, Luke Donald (WCAS01) pictured himself playing golf with the best in the world. After dominating the college golf scene as a Wildcat, his dream is now reality.
Before graduating with a degree in art, Donald was four-time All-American, three-time Big Ten Player of the Year, two-time Big Ten Champion and 13-time tournament medallist.
Today Donald is not only competing against the top golfers in the world, he is beating them.
The talented Brit turned professional in August 2001 after several major amateur titles. He became only the 11th rookie in PGA Tour history to earn more than $1 million in his first season by winning the Southern Farm Bureau Classic in Madison, Miss.
"College golf really taught me how to win," says Donald. "I came out of Northwestern feeling confident about my game, so now I feel like whenever I tee it up I have a chance to win."
Donald started the 2004 season on fire with three top-20 finishes before March — highlighted by a dramatic playoff with John Daly, when he tied for second at the Buick Invitational. In mid-April he ranked 32nd on the money list.
Donald ended up at Northwestern in a roundabout way. Coming from England, he didn't know much about the recruiting process. So he joined College Prospects of America — a service that created a résumé for him and sent it to all the major colleges and universities in the United States.
Several coaches responded to Donald's résumé, including Wally Goodwin — former Northwestern head coach — at Stanford. "I hadn't heard of many of the schools that responded, but I knew about Stanford mostly because that's where Tiger [Woods] went," says Donald.
Goodwin recruited Donald to join his golf squad, but when he was not admitted to the university, Goodwin turned Jeff Mory on to his foreign prospect.
Little did Mory know that Donald would become the 1999 NCAA Champion, 1999 College Golfer of the Year, and 1999 Golfstat Cup winner for lowest stroke average in the nation (70.45) — beating the record Woods set while at Stanford.
"I was a little nervous at first about Northwestern, but things work out for a reason, and my not getting into Stanford was one of those instances," says Donald.
Donald attributes much of his success on the course to being on a close-knit squad, where his teammates forced each other to improve.
He also credits his success to how much he enjoyed college life at Northwestern. The Englishman, who still lives in Evanston, is a Sigma Chi Fraternity member, met his longtime girlfriend at a local watering hole and still practices at the Gleacher Center regularly.
While Donald's golf talent at Northwestern was unparalleled, his teammates and coaches appreciated him for his silly British humor, his calmness under pressure, his warm-hearted generosity and his incredible artistic ability.
Donald, an art theory and practice major, paints in his free time and recently auctioned off one of his oil paintings to raise $1,640 for charity.
"Luke is not just a golfer, and he didn't go to Northwestern to only play golf," Goss says. "I think people on Tour realize that he's a lot different than everyone else out there." — D.S.