Carlsbad’s Luciano Conlan zeroes in on his sight lines while Josh, his father, works out his punch lines.
Even when the elder Conlan is serving as his son’s caddy during this week’s prestigious U.S. Amateur Championships in New Jersey.
“His dad jokes kind of take the pressure off,” Luciano said. “It helps me relax.”
There’s plenty of tension at the nation’s oldest golf championship presented by the United States Golf Association. It’s the 122nd edition of an event that has an impressive list of winners. Among those hoisting the Havemeyer Trophy include Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rancho Santa Fe’s Phil Mickelson.
Maybe Luciano will join them as a champion or possibly another golfer with North County roots. In addition to Luciano in the 312-player field at The Ridgewood and Arcola country clubs, there are Encinitas’ Luke Potter and Carlsbad’s Dylan Oyama, who also plays at San Diego State.
Luciano’s hard work at Hawaii’s Hoakalei Country Club qualifying site punched his ticket to the US Amateur. With his dad on his bag, Luciano shot a 68-71 to win the event comfortably, his groans notwithstanding from his dad’s deliveries.
“Right now, we’re doing inside jokes and one-liners from movies,” Josh said. “He really likes ‘The Great Gatsby,’ so I call him, ‘Old Sport.’”
That’s rich, as the left-handed Luciano does possess an old soul that comes with a wise outlook regarding golf. Instead of stressing over shots, he doesn’t put expectations in his golf bag that his dad is carrying.
Instead Luciano treats each shot as its own deal, not reflecting on what he’s done or what lies in front.
“I tried to avoid that,” he said. “That leads to too much pressure and it’s easy to get frustrated on the course if I treat everything like it’s a do-or-die situation.”
So the Conlan combo approached the qualifier with a carefree attitude. That island vibe worked, as well as Luciano’s flat blade.
“I was putting really well, hitting 15- and 20-footers and being accurate in hitting the fairways,” he said. “It was a pretty smooth tournament.”
Luciano, 17, mostly avoided the rough and that was reflected in his first-round score. When strong winds accompanied the second and final round, his competition had a difficult time making a charge.
That plopped Luciano, a noted junior golfer who has made a verbal commitment to UCLA, into one of the USGA’s most decorated events.
“Once I finished, I said, ‘OK, I know I get to play in the US Amateur’ and that was the goal,” he added.
The golfer and caddy have a 30-year age difference but it seems they are on the same page. They keep things loose for 18 holes, which is easier said than done.
“He does a good job because he makes me laugh,” Luciano said. “The more I can enjoy myself the better I play and that is the key.”
That had Josh unlocking some more material.
“I don’t give a lot of advice,” he said.
What would the golf-striking Conlan suggest to others to improve their game? It’s not a stretch that he mentions a workout that is prevalent in North County.
“Yoga,” he said. “It has really improved my flexibility and allows me to turn and get through the ball better.”
Luciano has always been keen with his short game. Now his driving has improved and he points to yoga as among the reasons.
“It’s crazy but yoga just makes you feel different,” he said.
He’ll be looking for more of the same from Pops. That’s to provide a few chuckles at a tournament that his son isn’t stressing over.
“Sometimes when you go into tournaments expecting to be in contention, it doesn’t happen,” Luciano said. “If I can just enjoy the experience and actually have fun, that is more important and I seem to do better.”