Former Wildcat Golfer Making Mark on Adams Winter Series
LINCOLN, Neb. The shrieks, crackles and pops could have been the fireworks or the sound of AJ Elgert’s life plan making a sudden and huge shift on July 4, 2006. That night, at his brother’s cookout, Elgert and Lisa Loudon officially became a couple and just over a year and a half later the improbable duo is planning a wedding.
It seems that the fireworks are just beginning for Elgert, as the former honorable mention All-American golfer for Kansas State is playing some of the best golf of his life. He has won two events in the Adams Golf Winter Series and finished second in another this season.
Elgert’s most recent victory came at the River Plantation Open in Biloxi, Miss., on Jan. 11, where he shot an 8-under 169 and won a playoff against former Nationwide Tour member Jaxon Brigman. Elgert’s success has put him atop the Winter Series money list at $12,267.50 with six events remaining and he points to his engagement as one factor in his improved performance.
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” Elgert said of the improvement in his performance. “My life has taken some really wild turns you can’t expect. I just got engaged to be married and bought a home. It’s been a maturation process of growing up and starting to realize the time it takes to get better. It takes hard work. You get in there and you do it knowing the benefits and the rewards area greater than the effort that it takes. The biggest change really is becoming an adult and defining absolute goals. That was something that I struggled with in college.”
Elgert came to K-State as the top player out of the state of Nebraska and admits he was talented but unchallenged while winning a Class A State Championship and the 2000 Nebraska Junior Amateur. The Lincoln native honed his skills with the Wildcats and became one of the team’s most consistent players, leading them in spring stroke average in three of his four seasons.
Even during his time at K-State, Elgert continued to assert himself as the best player in Nebraska while claiming three consecutive Nebraska Amateur Championships from 2002-04. It was during his senior season for the Wildcats, however, that Elgert began to show that he belonged with the best in the nation.
Using a strong performance at the 2004 NCAA Central Regional as a springboard, Elgert notched back-to-back under-par performances and was tied for fourth, one stroke back of the leader after two rounds at the NCAA Championships. Although he fell off the pace and tied for 28th, Elgert earned honorable mention All-America honors.
Elgert finished his degree in December of 2004 and turned pro right away, bouncing from mini-tour to mini-tour. Elgert estimates that he’s logged over 105,000 miles and abused three cars while driving to every event over the past several years.
“It’s a lot of hours driving, but it’s the comforts of home,” Elgert said of his time behind the wheel. “I like to have my own car. I pile all my stuff in there. A day of driving doesn’t bother me anymore it’s a day that I can listen to sports talk radio and prepare myself for competing. Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation. Airports stress me out, even on the PGA tour these guys get motor homes for a reason and it’s something that I’ve done since I started.”
One roadtrip sticks out from the rest Elgert’s trip back to Lincoln in summer 2006 from Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he was competing on the Tar Heel Tour. Elgert’s original plan included staying in Lincoln for 45 days while avoiding the heat of the Southeast.
His plans didn’t include romance, but after meeting Lisa at his brother’s cookout and hanging out during the Fourth of July weekend, things changed.
“It wasn’t really a blind date,” Elgert said. “My brother said you’ve got to meet this girl, we’re going to have a cookout. To me I was just meeting someone who was close to them. A few days later we all went out and I got to know her. (July 4th) was the day we basically said our relationship began.”
Fourteen months later the pair was engaged and the life change is offering Elgert a new perspective and new direction.
“It defines your life,” Elgert said of his relationship and recent home purchase. “Golf is not so much a career-oriented deal when you’re bouncing around on the mini tour - you kind of lose your identity. Once I made that commitment I found out who I was.
“Im doing what I love to do, but my goals aren’t the mini tours. Once I started defining where I wanted the game to take me, it became easier to get out there.”
Elgert opened the Adams Winter Series a developmental tour in the Houston area featuring ten 36-hole events and five 54-hole events with a win at the Falcon Point Classic on November 6. Two days later, Elgert finished in second place, two shots behind the leader at the Oakhurst Open.
Elgert has missed the cut in two events but the two early showings, coupled with the win at the River Plantation Open, show that he’s continued to improve as a player and is moving toward his dream of playing in the PGA.
“My goal from week to week is to win, but that’s not going to get me where I want to go I want to play on the PGA Tour,” Elgert said. “Physically I’m getting better and the talent is the same as it was five years ago. Finding the path is the biggest change and getting married and buying a house has a lot to do with that goal.
“My talent has always been at an extremely high level. It’s practicing hard enough so that talents used and keeping my mind in good shape. (The progress) is like watching paint dry. I just have to keep growing up, keep working hard. I’ll never know everything I need to know, but I can certainly know more and more every day.”