Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn
Seath Lauer has to leave work early to get to Sarasota’s Laurel Oak Country Club, the closest golf course to his office at Virtus Health, by 4:30 p.m.
He makes time for golf whenever he can. It's important.
The 31-year-old Lauer is gearing up to play in the Web.com Tour’s LECOM Suncoast Classic at Lakewood National Golf Club, Feb. 14-17. He received a special exemption into the first-year event and he is grateful he did, because it affords him another chance to chase his dream.
Lauer was an acclaimed golfer in his youth, finishing in the top 20 at the state tournament in all three of his years at Lakewood Ranch High. Lauer’s family moved back to Indiana, where Lauer was born, for his senior season.
During high school, he was once ranked as high as sixth in national recruiting rankings for his class. He then attended Florida State, where he captained the golf team as a senior in 2009-2010 and helped the Seminoles finish third at the NCAA Championships.
But after college, Lauer said, he found himself without much of a plan. He fundraised money for a shot at Q School — back when it was for the PGA Tour, not the Web.com Tour — and reached the final stage, but that is when his game failed him, he said.
“I just did not play well,” Lauer said. “That is my one big ‘what if.’ Playing six rounds of golf back to back to back, it was just mentally draining.”
Lauer spent time traveling the country and playing Monday qualifiers for Web.com Tour events and mini-tours, while also trying to raise enough money to keep playing events. In 2014, he took the year off, working for an insurance company and not even touching a golf club for the first six months. Lauer said he thought if he played golf regularly, he would want to go back to playing professionally, and not want to work in an office. There was no casual playing for him.
In 2015, he took another shot at professional golf and qualified for the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, which he stuck with for two years. The first year, he said, he played OK, but the second, he simply missed too many cuts, many by a stroke or two. At that point, he decided to stop once again, and he joined Virtus Health in early 2017.
“It is hard to ask people who have supported you (as sponsors) to keep going,” Lauer said. “I felt like it was time to move on, swallow that pride. Guys grind and grind, and most will not make it. At some point, you have to be realistic. I am not one to lie to myself.”
When Lauer plays now, with friends or by himself, he plays “free and clear,” he said. No pressures, professional or financial, fill his head. He just gets in his stance and swings. However, Lauer said he is happier with the state of his game now than he has been in a long time.
But there is also a nagging part of his brain, a slightly contradicting part, that will not let him quit his dreams, at least not fully.
Lauer referenced Michael Jordan, who tried to retire from basketball multiple times before it stuck, and Kobe Bryant, who announced in 2018 his plans to open a youth basketball academy. For a lot of athletes, there is simply no letting go.
That is why Lauer is taking the Suncoast Classic so seriously. He often spends his lunch hour hitting balls, then gets in 90 minutes after work. He undergoes cryotherapy treatments at Hydr8 Wellness Center to get his body as loose as possible. He is doing everything he can, in other words, to give himself the best shot at success.
“I want to play again, let’s be honest,” Lauer said with a smirk. “I want to give myself that chance. I would be lying if I said that was not the goal.
“I know I can still play. I have the talent. I do not think I am far from breaking through (to the pro ranks). It is a shot here and there that is the difference.”
Who knows? As Lauer said, one phenomenal tournament can change a golfer’s fortunes. In his ideal world, Lauer said he wants to play well enough to play again the next week, and so on.
Will there ever be a time Lauer stops trying to break through?
“I do not want to think about that,” Lauer said. “Maybe, but I could also still make it on the Senior Tour at 50 or so. I want to be competitive in the game forever.”
Lauer is familiar with Lakewood National, playing it a handful of times, which gives him something of an advantage. I don’t know if the Suncoast Classic will be the start of Lauer’s next chapter, but I sure cannot wait to find out.