By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Luke Guthrie's goal was quite simple.
Play well enough to be a factor on Sunday.
That was the Quincy's native staple answer when asked about his burgeoning professional golf career and his expectations during his first two PGA Tour events. Such quiet confidence and honesty earned him the respect of his peers and the national media alike.
Yet, it's his short game that will earn him more paychecks.
Armed with a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Illinois he completed this fall and the momentum of a remarkable six months playing golf, Guthrie heads to Hawaii for the Sony Open the second week of January to begin his rookie season on the PGA Tour.
Seven months ago, Guthrie hoped that's where he'd be, but there were no guarantees.
Coming off winning the Big Ten Championship for the second year and leading the Illini to their fourth straight NCAA Tournament, Guthrie turned pro in June and received a sponsor's exemption to play in the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn.
Immediately, Guthrie showed he belonged. He finished tied for 19th, cashed a $67,000 check and earned a second sponsor's exemption. But he wasn't a factor on the back nine on Sunday.
A month later, that changed.
Playing in the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill., Guthrie shot a 7-under 64 to reach 16-under and tie for fifth. Better yet, he heard the chants of "Luke! Luke! Luke!" as he walked up the 18th fairway and soaked in the thunderous roar of the crowd when he rolled in a birdie putt to close his round.
"It was awesome," Guthrie said. "It was amazing."
It only got better.
Without a guarantee of any future PGA Tour dates, Guthrie played in the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational the final week of July, finished second after losing in a playoff and earned exempt status on the Web.com Tour.
It was the best thing that could have happened. Guthrie played in 10 Web.com Tour events, finishing second on the money list with more than $400,000 in earnings and gained his PGA Tour card for 2013. Along the way, he won his first two professional tournaments -- the Boise Open and the WNB Golf Classic -- and became one of only two Quincyans to win a tournament on one of golf's biggest stages.
He also became one of only a handful of players to ever earn their PGA Tour card without going to Q School.
That has gotten him noticed.
Of the top 100 players to watch in 2013 -- a list compiled by the editorial staff of PGATour.com -- Guthrie is No. 97. It's the precursor to what could be a special year and special career.