Bootstrap Golf: The Long Expedition of David Lipsky
David Lipsky isn’t the most famous PGA Tour golfer from California, nor is he the most renowned player from the state’s SoCal hotbed. Heck, he isn’t even the most celebrated player from his own high school.
And yet the 33-year-old PGA Tour rookie has more worldly experience than many pro players will accumulate in a lifetime, and that includes two-time major champ Collin Morikawa, who graduated from La Cañada High School eight years after Lipsky’s own dominant career as a Spartan.
Post-prep, Lipsky matriculated at Northwestern University, where he was the Big Ten individual champ in 2010 and an All-American the year following; he turned pro in 2011 and directly turned his attentions to playing overseas, starting on the Asian Tour.
From his SoCal junior golf experience — playing amid the post-Tiger/pre-Cantlay generation of Rickie Fowler, Jamie Lovemark and Cameron Tringale — Lipsky learned that he’d need to grind his way to the top.
“I still remember getting my butt kicked by those guys,” Lipsky recalls of his SoCal beginnings. “I was a good junior player, but certainly not the best. But I’ve always been motivated to keep getting better.”
In the Far East, Lipsky earned instant returns, winning the 2012 Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic in just his third start on the Asian Tour.
Playing in Asia presented challenges not often encountered in the America. “The first time I was in India, in Delhi, I remember being in this crazy traffic jam that took us an hour to move a mile,” Lipsky laughs. “And that’s when I saw a procession of elephants going through the street.”
At the close of an educational first pro year, Lipsky attempted to take his game back to the States. The decision would set in motion a unique golf expedition that would last nearly a decade.
“It was the last time the PGA Tour had Q-School, and I just missed out on my card,” Lipsky recalls about 2012. “I ended up playing Korn Ferry the next year, and I really struggled. I went from playing in [exotic places] like Bangkok or Tokyo or Singapore to playing in Wichita, Kansas, and staying at Red Roof Inns. To be frank, I don’t think my game was ready yet. So I used that as a learning experience.”
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
Those lessons took him back overseas, where Lipsky’s journey became an ongoing series of passport stamps on the European Tour, where he’d spend the better part of the next six years.
“I’ve definitely taken the road less traveled; but it’s not a road I’d trade for anything in the world,” he smiles. “I wouldn’t be the player I am today if I didn’t do all that. Everyone is on their own path, and this is mine. I didn’t realize how much I’d enjoy traveling the world; it’s been interesting and colorful, to say the least.”
Success followed, including a win at the Omega European Masters in 2014, followed by another win at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in ’18. But even amid the wins, Lipsky learned the tough realities of a fairway-to-fairway, international lifestyle.
“There’s a lot to the travel that people don’t always understand; it could take me 24 or 36 hours sometimes to get to where I needed to go,” he says. “People don’t really see that part, and all that travel can get tiring. It was fun when I was younger, but it got somewhat exhausting going to all the different countries and different environments.”
Plus, the money didn’t always make sense.
“I remember one time having almost no money in my bank account, and I was traveling from India back to the U.S., and I had four connecting flights because I was trying to save cash,” he says. “Took me almost 40 hours to get home, and I was getting kicked out of Heathrow Airport because I had a seven-hour connection wait and the hotels were too expensive.”
In 2020-21, as a thirtysomething with a strong CV, Lipsky returned to domestic competition. Last season, on the Korn Ferry Tour, Lipsky proved that his game was ready. He authored seven top-10s in 32 starts, including a victory at the TPC San Antonio Challenge.
As the golf gods would have it, Lipsky wasn’t the only La Cañada grad making headlines that summer day. On the exact same afternoon — July 12, 2020 — Collin Morikawa won the Workday Charity Open for his second PGA Tour victory.
NEXT LEG UP
Lipsky, who notes that Kevin Na also attended La Cañada for a year or two, has felt a longtime kinship with Morikawa.
“I live in Vegas full time now, and Collin lives there most of the time, and we’ve known each other for a long time, going back to when he was in college at Cal,” Lipsky says. “We actually met at Oakmont CC, and one of the guys told me, ‘You’ve got to meet this kid, he’s going to be unbelievable.’ We’ve stayed in touch ever since, and when he took off, I was so happy for him; Collin is one of the best dudes out here. And yes, we’ve talked about the same hang-out spots when we were both in high school.”
While no doubt eager to match Morikawa’s Tour resume, Lipsky has zero animosity toward the younger player.
“I don’t have an ego about it, no jealousy. I’m just doing the best I can, and I’m sure he’s doing the same,” he says. “I find it somewhat motivating, as well, to see him take off like he has; it’s pushed me to refine my game to the point where I can compete with him.”
As evidence of this motivation, Lipsky entered March of 2022 with a trio of top-25 finishes in a dozen events on the wraparound season; across 30 career PGA Tour events, he’s made 20 cuts and recorded seven top-25s.
With a personal goal of making the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs this year, Lipsky plays with a learned, worldly purview and perspective owned by few others on Tour.
“Guys on the PGA Tour don’t always realize how good they have it, compared to life on other tours. And that’s humbled me in a way, and maybe strengthened me, too,” he concludes. “I don’t have any sense of entitlement, because I’ve seen it all, from World Golf Championships to the Panasonic Open in Delhi. This is where I’ve always wanted to be. And, yeah, I’m playing solidly, but I don’t forget where I started out.”