Dufner has since had a successful run, highlighted by winning the PGA Championship last August.
With the Atlanta airport convenient to Auburn, Dufner chose to settle down in a college town where football dominates the scene. He enjoys living in the laid-back environment, which enables him to become immersed into the swing of college football that’s so important to him.
Not only does Dufner enjoy Auburn’s home games at Jordan-Hare Stadium, he finds time to watch the Tigers practice in the fall. His interest in the football program, and his affection for the team, enabled him to get to know Philip Lutzenkirchen, the Lassiter High School graduate and former Auburn star killed in an automobile accident recently.
“Philip became a friend of mine, although I did not have enough time to get to know him well,” Dufner said after Saturday’s third round of the British Open at Hoylake. “I got to know him through the football team and going to practices. I have a charity event, which he had played in. We never got around to playing golf, but I am sure that would have eventually come about.”
Dufner says that he, like so many in the Auburn family, was overwhelmed emotionally with Lutzenkirchen’s death.
“That was such a tragedy, and it really hits home how important life is,” Duffer said. “When such a fine young man loses his life at such a young age, it really is a blow.”
In memory of Lutzenkirchen, Dufner had the tight end’s No. 43 stitched on his golf bag. As Dufner walks the fairways of the golf course where Bobby Jones won the second championship of his legendary Grand Slam in 1930, Lutzenkirchen’s number is easily recognized.
“The idea was to show support, primarily to his family,” Dufner said, “but also to his many friends, to his teammates at Auburn and those in the Auburn family he meant so much to. I wanted to let his family and all of his friends know that I am thinking about him whenever I am out here on the tour.”
Dufner, who shot a second-consecutive 74 Saturday and is 2-over par for the tournament, said he received several messages of thanks by the Auburn athletic officials for making his golf bag tribute to Lutzenkirchen.
“I respected Philip as a football player. He was a very good athlete and made some big plays for our football team. I enjoyed watching him play. He was a good guy and well-liked.”
Loran Smith is executive secretary of the Georgia Bulldog Club and former sideline reporter for the Georgia football team. He can be reached at email@example.com.