He works full-time. Now this Lakewood Ranch alum has chance to get closer to PGA Tour dream

There was an unexpected text message sent to 31-year-old Seath Lauer on Wednesday, the day before the LECOM Suncoast Classic began — a Tour tournament at Lakewood National Golf Club providing a huge opportunity for the former Lakewood Ranch High star in the field on a sponsor’s exemption.

The person sending the text was golf’s world No. 2-ranked player, Brooks Koepka.

“He was like, ‘Hey dude, saw you were playing, good luck,’ ” Lauer said. “That was kind of cool. I wouldn’t expect him to see that. I try to keep in touch with him a little bit. I don’t want to bother those guys very much. They’re busy all over the world.”

Koepka, who won two majors in 2018 as he closed the year as the No. 1 golfer in the world, was Lauer’s roommate when they played together at Florida State.

In fact, there’s no shortage of top talent Lauer’s competed with during his career. Two FSU players — Koepka and Jonas Blixt — from Lauer’s team made it to the PGA Tour, while former Seminoles player Doug Letson was on and off the Tour.

When counting the guys after him at FSU, Lauer said the list is pretty substantial for guys with at least Tour status.

So getting into this week’s tournament field as a sponsor’s exemption isn’t a star-struck type of a deal, even with two former major champs — Mike Weir and Angel Cabrera — playing.

Lauer is used to it.

“There were good players around us all the time from junior golf,” said Lauer, who opened the LECOM Suncoast Classic with a 1-under-par 71 on Thursday. “You look at our era of who is on (the PGA) Tour and all that, I don’t think it mattered where you played (in college), you kind of had that motivation no matter what. Because everywhere you looked, there were good players.”

Seath Lauer practices on a putting green Wednesday morning in the rain for the Tour at Lakewood National Golf Club. Tiffany Tompkins

What is unique this year compared to five years ago for Lauer is he’s not a full-time pro anymore. He has a full-time job, working at Virtus Health, which provides in-center therapy for those affected by autism and down syndrome.

There are centers along Florida’s southwest, including Sarasota. Lauer last played professional tour golf in 2016 on the Canadian Tour.

After last summer’s announcement the Tour was coming to Lakewood National Golf Club, Lauer’s caddy this week, longtime friend Steve Slocum, relied on his experience working with GolfWeek to figure out what it would take to receive a sponsor’s exemption.

Now in real estate, Slocum’s company put together some business deals for this week’s tournament and a lunch meeting with tournament director Justin Kristich went well enough to secure an exemption for Lauer.

The margin between a PGA Tour player and Tour player or mini-tour player is razor-thin.

“It’s just taking advantage of opportunities,” Slocum said. “That’s what when I talk to him (Thursday) before we tee off, that’s what I am going to say, ‘This is your opportunity. Prove all the naysayers wrong.’”

So three months ago, Lauer began his preparation for this week’s tournament, often hitting balls at a nearby driving range on his lunch breaks from work. Slowly he built himself into tournament shape, preparing with a couple West Florida Golf Tour events.

“It’s not like this is do or die for me,” Lauer said. “Do I want to do something well with it? Yeah, of course. But is it the end of the world if we don’t? No, not really. ... I definitely do. A top 10 would be huge. You never know. I mean, in the game of golf, one good week can propel your whole career.”

Sports reporter Jason has covered high school, college and pro sports since joining the Bradenton Herald in 2010. He’s won Florida Press Club awards for sports feature and column writing. He currently writes college and pro sports stories for the McClatchy East Region real-time team.