By Johnny Moore, GoDuke the Magazine
Julian Suri always knew he wanted to be a professional golfer. Growing up in one of the golf capitals of the world — Jacksonville, Fla., with the PGA Tour headquarters just outside of town and the World Golf Hall of Fame just down the road — he worked hard at his game to become a professional.
And Suri made that dream of being a professional tour golfer come true, just not the way he had envisioned. Instead of becoming a household name on the PGA Tour, he has battled his way to worldwide prominence across the Atlantic Ocean on the European Tour.
“It wasn’t always the plan, but as I got older I felt I should be doing better and looked at the option of Europe,” explained Suri. “World Rankings points, which get you into majors and bigger tournaments, are greater in Europe. Going to Europe for 12 weeks at a time by myself has been an incredible cultural experience.”
As a Blue Devil, Suri had an illustrious college career winning three individual titles — the Rod Myers Invitational at the Duke Golf Course in 2011 and 2012 and the John Burns Invitational at Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii in 2012. He helped to lead the Blue Devils to team championships in both of those Rod Myers events as well as an ACC title in 2013. All-ACC honors came his way in 2012, as well as selection for All-America honors twice and ACC All-Academic honors three times.
“Duke was great for me,” he explained. “I got to compete at a very high level of college golf, and I learned a lot off the course. Being away from home it taught me to manage my schedule, working in class, golf, homework and trying to be a normal person. The time management aspect of college life was a great learning process.”
Suri turned professional in 2013, playing mini-tours and battling injuries. He went to Spain in the fall of 2016 to qualify for the European PGA Tour, finishing just one stroke short of qualifying and earning a spot on the Challenge Tour.
“When I went out on the tour I found that I wasn’t close to my potential,” explained Suri. “My mechanics were struggling. While everyone else in college seemed to have their own swing coach, I had depended on my ability to just play golf and be very competitive. I found that as a professional golfer I needed to improve my game and was able to team up with Dan Carraher.”
Carraher, considered one the top professional golf teachers in the country, helped Suri take his game to the next level.
“We revamped my swing, reworked my motion, working on things one-by-one,” explained Suri. “At the college level most players have been drilled on their swing. I never had a swing coach. I knew how to compete, but needed to work on my mechanics. It takes a lot to trust someone who is making changes to what you use for your livelihood.”
“Patience ... patience is what he’s learning,” Carraher said. “He’s getting better and better at it. It comes down to not trying to force an issue once you know you’re good enough, and take what the game gives you.”
In May 2017 he was runner-up in the Open de Portugal and two weeks later earned his first professional win at the D+D Real Czech Challenge on the Challenge Tour. Suri qualified for the 2017 Open Championship, his first major championship, through final qualifying. In August 2017 Suri had his first European Tour win, the Made in Denmark tournament. Despite only playing a partial season on the European Tour, Suri performed well enough to qualify for the DP World Tour Championship, where he finished tied for eighth. He ended the season 52nd in the Road to Dubai and with a world ranking of 62nd at one point.
With that notoriety, he got a batch of sponsor invitations on the PGA Tour and played more in America, intent on trying to get his Tour card through non-member FedEx Cup points. He played in 10 PGA Tour events last season, made the cut nine times and earned $484,000 in prize money.
His hometown NFL team recognized him in 2018 and named him as an ambassador and official golfer for the Jacksonville Jaguars on the European Tour. The Jaguars played a game in London and received a great deal of publicity from Suri’s solid play.
So far his highest PGA Tour finish is eighth at the Houston Open last season, but he still has great memories of playing in two majors: he came back from an opening round 74 at Carnoustie in The Open to tie for 28th, and he was among the top 10 most of the week at Bellerive in the PGA Championship last summer before tying for 19th.
Those finishes in majors showed him a great deal about his game.
“I’m closer than I think,” he explained. “I can win one of these things. I’m right there ... it’s just around the corner. I was among the top five in strokes gained at the PGA and my putting was near the bottom and I still finished in the top 20. I think I’m pretty close to some good stuff.”
Suri said he really enjoyed the incredible experience of playing in a major championship — such as being grouped with Jason Day and Charl Schwartzel in the PGA, and Lee Westwood and Adam Hadwin in the Open.
“The majors are the biggest atmosphere to be around,” said Suri, who finished tied for second in the Open de France, UBS Hong Kong Open along with a tie for fifth in the British Masters. “Playing the majors is what you dream about. Other events have a smaller atmosphere and I have to find ways to energize myself. In the end, it’s still the same thing. I’m trying to be the best player I can be. I’m trying to be the best player in the world.”
Heading into the 2019 season, Suri is fully exempt on the European Tour and has a world ranking of 87th. He is already assured of playing in the PGA Championship in May at Bethpage and is looking forward to continuing to compete at the highest level of golf.
“You have to learn from all of your experiences and I feel I have been fortunate to have some great experiences in golf so far,” he said. “I want win. I feel I can play so much better and plan on showing it to everyone.”
Former Duke golfer Adam Long became the most recent Blue Devil to win a PGA Tour event when he claimed the Desert Classic on Jan. 20, stroking the winning putt on the final hole to edge Phil Mickelson and Adam Hadwin by one shot. A 2010 Duke product, Long earned his PGA Tour card for 2019 with a 13th-place finish on the Web.com Tour money list last season. He had played in five previous PGA events and made the cut once.
Here’s a look at where Duke golf alums are scheduled to compete this season:
PGA Tour - Ryan Blaum, Adam Long, Wes Roach, Kevin Streelman
European Tour - Julian Suri
Web.com Tour - Max Greyserman, Motin Yeung
PGA Tour Canada - Brinson Paolini, Jake Shuman, Matt Oshrine
PGA Tour Latin America - Brinson Paolini, Michael Schachner
Challenge Tour - Tim Gornik, Mads Soegaard
Dakota Challenge Tour - Clark Klaasen