Former Vol Surratt Adjusting To Life On LIV Golf Tour

  • Thursday, June 20, 2024
  • Paul Payne
Legion XIII team members, from left, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm and Caleb Surratt speak to media prior to this weeks LIV Golf event at The Grove
Legion XIII team members, from left, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm and Caleb Surratt speak to media prior to this weeks LIV Golf event at The Grove
photo by Paul Payne

COLLEGE GROVE, Tenn. - When Caleb Surratt decided to join the LIV Golf tour last January in the middle of his sophomore year at the University of Tennessee, he became the youngest player among the league’s 54 competitors.

Only 19 at the time, Surratt is 34 years younger than Phil Mickelson and ten years junior to his Legion XIII team captain, Jon Rahm. Instead of worrying about homework and college life, Surratt has spent the past five months obtaining an education he couldn’t have otherwise gotten in the classroom.

What a difference a year makes for Surratt.

A year ago, he won the SEC individual golf championship while earning All-American honors as a Vol freshman, later being a member of the victorious U.S. Walker Cup team on the Old Course in St. Andrews.

Today his life looks completely different. Back in Tennessee this week for the LIV Golf Nashville tour stop at The Grove, Surratt has encountered some unexpected challenges away from the golf course.

He was denied a hotel room in the season’s second event in Las Vegas because he was under 21, needing teammate Tyrrell Hatton to present his driver’s license to secure Surratt a place to sleep.

When asked about his plans this week to celebrate in the city’s popular Broadway entertainment district with close friends coming to Nashville, Surratt’s age again became an issue.

“I can't get in anywhere, so it's not really on my radar,” Surratt said. “I've actually only been downtown once. To have my friends around me, it's going to be awesome. But I don't have much access anywhere. There will be a bunch of off-the-golf-course hanging out and just trying to make it feel like home as much as possible.”

Surratt’s transition to the 14-stop global golf tour that features events in Singapore, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Spain and the United Kingdom has been a crash-course in global travel. While his performance on the golf course has been trending upwards with a current ranking of 35th with earnings of $1,636,500 plus an undisclosed LIV signing bonus, there’s still room for improvement according to Hatton.

“I think the biggest thing is trying to teach him how to pack a suitcase properly,” Hatton said. “That's been quite a stressful process for the first seven events. I think we're getting there, but I think it's only because he's been able to drive himself here that he's managed to hopefully pack everything that he was meant to pack this week.”

The decision to leave Tennessee in the middle of a promising year that ended with the Vols advancing to the NCAA Nationals was difficult for Surratt. But he did so with the blessing of his teammates.

“It was tough decision, but I had the support of all my teammates,” Surratt said. “There were a lot of guys that stepped up when they had to when everybody wrote Tennessee off making it to Nationals. It was tough watching them in postseason and not being there, but we still spend all of our time together back in Knoxville. I still practice at their facility and take part in team activities. I’ll always be a Vol.”

Surratt, now 20, has not second-guessed his decision to join LIV Golf, recognizing his rookie season is one of growth both personally and professionally.

“There’s a bigger stage out here and players are better, so it's been a little harder for me to compete,” Surratt said. “I'm just using the weeks where I have competed like I need to as confidence boosters, because I have had good weeks. I was leading last week in Houston, showing myself that I'm on the correct trajectory to be in a great place.

“But the whole mindset coming out here was I’ve got a lot of time to learn. And I got a lot of time to time to grow. I've learned stuff in five months that it might have taken me years as an individual doing it on my own.”

Rahm, who amassed 20 wins on the PGA Tour including two majors, has been impressed with the development witnessed thus far in his youthful teammate.

“He's an extremely mature young man to be 20 years old, “Rahm said. “There's a lot of growing to do when you start traveling around the world. That's a big step to take to professional golf. It's a lot more alone time than any other amateur golf you've dealt with.

“You're put on a world-class stage with world-class players and major champions, which is a bit of a reality check. That's not easy to do, and I think he's doing a great job. Once he learns how to apply a lot of those things that he's learning to his game, I think we're going to see a massive jump on what he can do.”

Surratt is looking forward to seeing some familiar faces in the gallery this week in Nashville, bringing a sense of normalcy to the whirlwind events of the past few months.

“All my friends are asking me to try and get tickets,” Surratt said. “It's just going to be cool to look over and see all my boys that have played a huge role in me getting here, watching me and supporting me.

“I'm excited for the test this week. I was telling somebody the other day it feels like a home game.”

Tickets to the 54-hole event are available for Friday and Sunday at www.livgolf.com. Saturday’s session is sold out. Tee times for the shotgun startf are 12:15 CDT on Friday and Saturday, with Sunday’s start schedule for 12:05 CDT.

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Paul Payne can be emailed at paulpayne6249@gmail.com

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