Reality hit home for Luke Guthrie as he played his way through Arizona and California the last 10 days.
Golf has become his sole focus.
"I saw somebody with a book bag and I said, ‘Never again,'" Guthrie said.
No more classes. No more exams. No more college.
Guthrie graduated from the University of Illinois in December with a bachelor's degree in business management, fulfilling the plan he laid out in June when the Quincy native turned professional. He was going to play as much golf as he could and return to Champaign to complete the fall semester.
There were some logistical challenges, but Guthrie made it work.
The diploma is proof of that.
"A University of Illinois degree is something special to have," Guthrie said. "It's what I worked hard for."
He'll work just as hard at his next goal.
That's a hefty climb up the world golf rankings.
Guthrie begins his rookie season on the PGA Tour this week at the Sony Open in Honolulu, hoping to play each of the next eight weeks. To do that, he'll need to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championships, which begin Feb. 20 in Marana, Ariz., with the top 64 players in the world rankings being invited.
Currently, Guthrie ranks 114th in the world, leaving him six weeks to climb 50 spots.
"I'm going to go after it," Guthrie said.
That's the only way he plays.
Guthrie played in four PGA Tour events in 2012, making the cut and finishing inside the top 20 three times. He also blitzed the Web.com Tour, making the cut in seven of 10 events, winning twice and finishing second on the money list to earn his PGA Tour card for 2013.
To keep the card, Guthrie will need to either win a tournament or finish in the top 125 on the money list. Based on everything he's done in his career, that seems attainable, especially when you have the right frame of mind.
"I'm still going into a tournament expecting to compete, expecting to win," Guthrie said. "Like I've said before, I want to be on the back nine on Sunday with a chance."
He's prepared himself for that.
Aside from completing his degree, Guthrie continued to fine tune his game. The day after Christmas, Guthrie and his older brother, Zach, headed for Arizona and Palm Springs, Calif., before making the final trek to Hawaii.
Guthrie enjoyed the opportunity to play some of the courses he will see during the West Coast swing. Those included the TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz., which is the site of the Phoenix Open, and Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif., which is the site of the Farmers Insurance Open.
"I like the progression I'm on," Guthrie said. "I'm trying to get more consistent with my swing by making it more repeatable. I'm just trying to get the feel back right now."
He'll have help. Zach Guthrie left his job as an assistant coach at Illinois to be his brother's caddie and coach.
"He knows me. He knows my swing," Luke said.
And they both know they will treasure this opportunity to take on the world together.
"We're going to have some cool experiences," Luke said.
It's truly all he's ever wanted.
"I've been talking about it forever," Guthrie said of playing on the PGA Tour. "I'm ready to tee it up."