PHOENIX – During a relaxed Friday afternoon practice in preparation for the Southwestern Invitational, the sounds of swinging golf clubs ricocheted off the red rock formations standing above Thunderbirds Golf Complex at Papago Golf Course.
Arizona State freshman golfer Luke Potter interjected with yells and air punches to rattle the facility and usher in a new wave of energy to a mellow ASU men’s golf team. Since joining the Sun Devils, Potter’s fierce competitive spirit has also helped him become a staple for the team.
“With his confidence, I knew he’d make friends quickly,” his high school golf coach, Casey Sovacool, said. “I don’t think he’d turn down a social scene.”
Social at times, Potter knows exactly when it’s time to put in work. He entered the first tournament of the year as one of the top freshmen in the country and ranked 63rd overall among Division I players.
In high school, Potter was a three-time Rolex All-American, California State individual championship, National High School Golfer of the Year and California Freshman Athlete of the Year as the first golfer since Tiger Woods to accomplish the feat.
Potter’s golfing career began at a young age with the help of his father’s influence. Another big inspiration was Greg Casagranda, who taught Potter (and his dad) the fundamentals of golf.
“Once [my dad] realized I was old enough to be able to swing a club, he got me started as early as I could,” Potter said. “I just kind of followed him and fell in love with the game.”
Potter moved from Wisconsin to Southern California and began golfing at Omni La Costa Resort and Spa, where he met Sovacool and later showed interest in playing for him at La Costa Canyon High School.
Sovacool described Potter as a mild-mannered student, except for when he stepped on the course. He was there to win.
“Luke Potter is an amazing golfer, Luke Potter knows he’s an amazing golfer,” Sovacool said. “He walks that line really well between cocky and confident.”
Potter officially committed to play for the Sun Devils as a freshman. If he didn’t wear his high school’s colors, he wore an ASU sweatshirt, which Sovacool says he probably wore more.
“He knew early that’s where he wanted to go, committed early and he stuck with it,” Sovacool said. “A lot of good, winning tour players have come out of there. Luke doesn’t have a goal of making the PGA Tour, he wants to do what Jon Rahm is doing.”
Sovacool admitted he was concerned about Potter’s transition to Arizona State after taking online classes in the previous three years, but he has since been reassured that Potter is enjoying the entire college experience, on and off the course.
When Potter stepped to the tee on the first hole of the Southwestern Invitational last Monday, he started the second half of his season at ASU nearly 140 miles away from where he grew up practicing, training and perfecting his golf game. Despite the adjustment as one of two freshmen on a roster that is smaller compared to most Division I teams, Potter made his impact felt on day one.
But ASU men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond predicted his success long before his first day on campus.
“As a sixth grader he knew exactly what he did every day,” Thurmond said. “It was kind of incredible actually, more than you would ever see a college kid or even most pros be able to articulate.”
In his first collegiate tournament at the Maui Jim Invitational last September, Potter tied for 24th at 5-under par in a tournament of 37 players. Potter hit seven birdies in the first round to help the Sun Devils finish second overall.
One of Thurmond’s mantras is “Sun Devils finish,” and Potter felt that despite his dissatisfaction with the beginning of the tournament, he ended his collegiate debut on a good note.
Whether playing the 18th hole or practicing at Thunderbirds Golf Complex at Papago Golf Course, his mentality stays the same. ASU golfer Ryggs Johnston recognizes Potter’s confidence and enthusiasm for the school and described his presence on the team as a huge addition.
“He’s matured a lot since he’s got to school, and he’s the guy that you count on to make that putt on the 18th hole when there’s a lot on the line,” Johnston said.
Sophomore Preston Summerhays went into further detail, saying that it made his decision to come to ASU easier. Both Summerhays and Potter played against each other in the American Junior Golf Association before attending ASU.
Potter beat Summerhays in the Maridoe Amatuer in 2020.
“Me and him actually became really good friends before actually getting to college,” Summerhays said. “We’d practice together when I’d go down to San Diego or he’d come up here.”
Throughout his amateur and collegiate career, Potter has made a name for himself as a fierce competitor. Sovacool expressed his change in demeanor when transitioning from everyday life to golf, and Thurmond confirmed.
The ASU coach explained that the team is a group of quiet personalities, but Potter’s addition stirs up the energy of the team.
“Other guys like Preston or Ryggs might have a better attitude than me, but I think showing my emotions is just a unique part about my game,” Potter explained. “It’s something I can work on, but I can also use it to my advantage.”
Potter is also known for taking huge chunks out of the course during practices and tournament play. Teammates know where has practiced based on the markings he leaves on the course.
“He hits a lot of range balls, you see that with all the divot patterns he’s kind of famous for,” Johnston said.
After finishing fourth individually in the Southwestern Invitational, Potter and the Sun Devils will travel to Waikoloa, Hawaii for The Amer Ari starting Wednesday.