His clubs in the trunk and his first big check in his back pocket, more than a long, hot ribbon of Texas highway lay out before Andrew Loupe on Sunday night as he left Victoria, Texas.
Stretching out before him may well be a long, productive career as a pro golfer.
The former LSU All-American finished with a flourish Sunday in the Victoria Texas Open on the NGA Hooters Professional Tour. A bogey-free 6-under-par 65 giving him solo second place in just his second start as a professional. He won $13,905.
The tournament down in southeast Texas was — literally and figuratively — hundreds and hundreds of miles from where Loupe eventually wants to be: on the PGA Tour. The top touring pros were outside Philadelphia this past weekend, competing in Tiger Woods’ tournament, the AT&T National.
But it’s a start. Oh, boy, is it a promising start.
If the PGA Tour is the major leagues and the Nationwide Tour is Triple-A ball, then the Hooters Tour is widely regarded as the equivalent of Double A. And Loupe’s showing in Victoria is like a young pitcher twirling a shutout in his second Double-A start.
“There are good players on this tour, for sure,” Loupe said as he left Victoria. “Guys are competing and want to win just like I do.
“It’s encouraging. I traveled by myself, carried my own bag, did my own thing. It felt good to be out there and battle by yourself and do everything on your own.”
At 22, Loupe already has one PGA Tour start on his résumé — albeit a frustrating one. He won local qualifying to get into the Zurich Classic of New Orleans back in April, but a badly sprained wrist conspired to short-circuit that opportunity. He missed the cut with rounds of 82 and 77.
He’ll take another crack at PGA Tour local qualifying again later this week, with Friday’s prequalifier for the Viking Classic in Jackson, Miss. Surviving that will take him to next Monday’s qualifier, and if he secures one of those four spots, he’ll be playing in the $3.6 million tournament next weekend.
If he doesn’t, Loupe plans to head to North Carolina where the Hooters Tour will make back-to-back stops.
Most of the golf world’s attention will be focused overseas next week on the British Open, but Loupe isn’t getting ahead of himself. He’s focused on trying to cement together the building blocks of his game to make a run at the PGA Tour’s qualifying school this fall.
When he’s home, Loupe will continue working on his game with LSU coach Chuck Winstead, Loupe’s teaching pro since he was a boy carrying a bag bigger than he was.
He knows there’s plenty to do, namely learning the pro’s knack of taking a round when you’re game isn’t quite there and fashioning a 69 out of it instead of a 75.
“I just have to continue to improve,” he said. “That’s what I really have to focus on. The money (I made is great) but that can’t be your focus. I have to concentrate on being better tomorrow than I am today.”
What a journey this could turn out to be.