Donnie Trosper has waited for this moment his entire life.
The Canton native felt like a kid in a candy store when he entered the Detroit Golf Club for his 18-hole practice round Tuesday. At first, he felt like everyone was staring at him, but after lunch, he spoke with 17th-ranked Tony Finau and other recognizable faces.
“Walking out, I can say I probably had too much candy,” he said jokingly.
Trosper, 23, is gearing up for his first PGA Tour event — the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which begins Thursday. The Michigan State product hopes to jump-start his professional career, and he doesn’t think there’s any better place to do it than his home state.
“If I have a really good strategy,” he said, “I can take advantage of this opportunity.”
Trosper was a Monday qualifier for this week’s Tour event. Two tournament exemptions were up for grabs at Oakland University’s Katke-Cousins course. Former UNLV golfer Kurt Kitayama shot 7-under 64 to secure one of the bids. And Trosper shot 4-under 67 with three other golfers — Andrea Pavan (Lucas, Texas), Andres Echavarria (Pembroke Pines, Florida) and Wes Homan (Beastville, Ohio) — before carding birdie-par-par to emerge from a three-hole sudden-death playoff.
“I had a really good feeling, even a week ago,” he said. “For some reason, in my mind, I thought there was a good chance. Sure enough, I ended up getting in. It was a great feeling.”
Trosper’s golf career is in its infancy; he yet to participate even on the Korn Ferry Tour, the minor leagues of the elite PGA Tour. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t prepared.
In 2014, he took the crown at the Ping Invitational as a 17-year-old for his fourth American Junior Golf Association victory that season, joining Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods for the second-most AJGA wins in one season. Seung Su Han’s five victories in 2002 remains the most of all time.
Michigan State golf coach Casey Lubahn paid attention and recruited Trosper out of Canton High School, but the rising star slipped away to UCF, where he was named AAC Freshman of the Year in 2015-16.
That’s until Trosper, who nearly qualified for the 2017 U.S. Open, decided to return home.
“Anytime a student-athlete goes to someplace they’re a little more comfortable, they really have an opportunity to thrive right out of the box,” Lubahn said. “And, boy, that’s what he did.”
Trosper posted the lowest single-season average in MSU history (71.37). He was named first-team All-Big Ten, PING All-Region and set a school record for the lowest 54-hole score with a 9-under 201 (65-69-67) at the NCAA Pullman Regional.
His first-round 65 in the regional tied him for the third-lowest score in program history, and he was key in helping the Spartans finish third (best since 2008) at the Big Ten championship.
Lubahn didn’t have to do much coaching. He described Trosper as the “best ball-striker I’ve seen in my life” but mentioned that he gave him a few tips on his short game.
When Monday’s qualifier came, Lubahn was glued to his computer screen from his home office. For now, he’s not allowed to return to campus due to COVID-19 restrictions. He had three or four leaderboards on his screen but fixated on Trosper’s round during the ninth hole.
“Every kid walks into your office as a recruit or transfer and says their dream is playing in the PGA Tour, and I think it’s important to cherish when guys get chances to play,” Lubahn said. “That’s their dream since they were little. I played a very small part in it but still feels good to see a kid achieving his dream.”
While Trosper is readying to achieve his lifelong dream of playing on the PGA Tour, he’s not going to be content with showing up. With five appearances at the Detroit Golf Club on his side, he’s looking to kick-start his professional career.
“Getting to the tournament isn’t such a big surprise,” he said, “but winning it, even coming in the top 5, top 10, shoot, even top 20, would be a dream come true. I would be starstruck.”
And Lubahn doesn’t doubt his chances.
“This isn’t a moment in time where he got hot,” he said. “Donnie has been this good since he was 16 years old. He’s an elite player. This is just the break he needed at the time he needs it.”