LEGION XIII'S SURRATT READY TO CHECK IN – EVEN IF HE’S NOT OLD ENOUGH

News
Written by
Mike McAllister
Feb 07 2024
- 5 min
2024-02-06T00:00:00.000Z
INTERVIEW: LEGION XIII "WANTED TO LEAVE OUR MARK"

LAS VEGAS – Caleb Surratt was nervous. He was attempting to check into his hotel in Las Vegas on Monday, but the front desk clerk wouldn’t give him a key. He’s 19 years old. Too young to get a room on his own, she said.

So, the teenager kept shooting worried glances at Legion XIII teammate Tyrrell Hatton, who eventually wandered over to provide support.

Hatton is 32, by the way.

“As I got there, the lady checking him in said that he needed someone over 21 to be on the reservation to allow him to stay in the room,” Hatton said. “I had to hand over my driver’s license to make sure he had a bed for the night.”

Hatton told the story amid plenty of laughs and smiles, but it was also another indication of just how youthful Surratt is as he begins life as a professional golfer.

There have been plenty of other so-young moments. Like the fact he was a sophomore in college and living in his dorm room at Tennessee just a few weeks ago. Or that he had never flown more than four hours on a plane until joining LIV Golf. Or that his new captain Jon Rahm questioned if he could even grow a beard to match the look of his teammates.

Or that during one of his first conversations with Rahm, Surratt said, “Man, I didn’t know you were only 29.” Given the tone of the question, Rahm wondered if Surratt “thought I was closer to 40 than 30.”

Pleaded Surratt: “It was actually a compliment, but he didn’t see it that way.”

Then, during Legion XIII’s cork-popping celebration late Sunday evening after winning Mayakoba in their LIV Golf debut as an expansion team, Rahm made sure not to spray Surratt with too much champagne. The drinking age in Mexico is 18, but Rahm didn’t want to overload the kid.

Even though Surratt is a cool, composed teenager with tremendous golf potential – witness the five consecutive birdies to end Sunday’s final round, a remarkable bounce-back string after his four-putt triple bogey on the previous hole – he’s still 19, the youngest golfer on any LIV Golf roster and competing against a multitude of major winners as well as players more than three decades older than him. For instance, one of his first-round playing partners in Mayakoba was Richard Bland, who turned 51 over the weekend.

His Legion XIII teammates – Rahm, Hatton and 26-year-old Kieran Vincent – are well aware that they could have a significant impact in the development of a future golf star. They do not take that responsibility lightly. But they aren’t going to force it, either.

“I feel like it’s up to him,” Rahm said. “If he wants us to help, he’ll ask. If not, I don’t think any of us are the type of people to just go up to him and tell him something because you never know if you’re going to help or not.”

The two did spend time together recently in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Rahm resides. With poor practice weather in Charlotte, North Carolina where Surratt was staying, Rahm extended the invitation to come out for a visit. The timing worked out, as Surratt was on break from college, had already signed with LIV Golf and was anxious to give his potential caddie at tryout.

“It was incredible,” Surratt said. “You see the way he operates. I was able to see what life at home is like for him. Everybody sees the on-camera Jon but nobody sees behind the scenes and what he does and how hard he works. I was able to see that.”

For Surratt, the immediate learning process will likely involve a lot of observational experiences. He’ll watch, take mental notes and grow at his own pace, as opposed to trying to learn everything with a constant litany of questions.

“You don’t really know what you don’t know,” Surratt said. “I’m just trying to figure out what I don’t know right now. Sometimes I like to think I know it all but that’s just not true.

“It’s kind of like you get better at driving a car just by driving a car.”

(If you’re so inclined, now would be the time to wonder just how recently he took driver’s ed.)

Although the move to LIV Golf was made recently, the decision was not an impetuous one. Nor a difficult one, said Surratt, who leaned on family, close confidantes and others for guidance. “Everybody looked at me and said it was a no-brainer,” he said. “An amazing opportunity.”

He is mature beyond his years, which is one of Rahm’s early impressions of him. The two have known each other for a while, having played a practice round during the 2023 event on the PGA Tour and becoming friendly as part of Team Callaway.

When Rahm joined LIV Golf on Dec. 7, the wheels were soon in motion for Surratt, who expressed interest in turning pro. Once the two talked it through, there was no hesitation on either side.

“He might be 19, but first time he ever walked me through his process to make this decision is about as mature as it came,” Rahm said. “He showed me real quick that he was ready. He was ready to make the jump.

“After that, once you're mentally ready, it's just getting past the step of it just being golf. Like it's a different setting, yes, different competition, yes, but at the end of the day, it's yourself on the golf course, and you just need to get comfortable with that.”

That should be the smoothest thing for Surratt to handle. He showed in Mayakoba that he can hold his own, tying for 13th at 5 under. His final-round 67 was his team’s second best score, as he posted eight birdies, including those five straight.

“It was definitely a good finish,” Surratt said in the aftermath of Legion XIII’s victory. “It's tough because there's a lot of unknowns going into the week and there's a lot of doubts, and there's some stuff running through my mind. But it's just cool to come out here and compete with truly a lot of the best players in the world.

“I'm learning the same stuff that used to work still works. It's just golf.”

And he’s just 19. He doesn’t turn 21 until March 16, 2025. That’s when he’ll be able to check into his hotel room all by himself.

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