JUST MY OPINION: Luke Donald has topped them all

On Sunday Luke Donald finished third in the Dubai World Championship and became the first golfer to win money titles on both the U.S. and European PIA Tours while holding membership in both.

This is something for the history books, and the feat hasn’t gotten the attention it should have from the sports media both in and away from Chicago. When you factor in what went on both on and off the course I believe Donald’s 2011 topped the accomplishments of all athletes, in all sports.

First he rises to No. 1 in the world, then pads his lead. When Webb Simpson threatened to claim the money title on the PGA Tour Donald added a late-season tournament and won it. When Rory McIlroy had a chance (however slim) to get the European money title Donald responded with a solid third-place showing with all that historical significance on the line.

He may still be without a major championship, but Luke was consistently good and at his best when the going was toughest.

All that success on the course came with two life-changing developments off the course — the birth of a daughter and the death of his father. It wasn’t so long ago, either, that Donald made a difficult decision — parting company with his brother as his caddie — that also factored into his extraordinary 2011 season.

Personally I feel an attachment to the Donald saga because I’ve seen a lot of it develop from up close. He was the leader of a Northwestern golf team that brought the Wildcats national prominence. I’ll also recall his victory in the Chicago Open at Beverly Country Club in the midst of the 9/11 tragedy. Luke was just an amateur playing against regional pros then, and I’m not sure the event should even have been held, given the circumstances facing the entire country at the time, but Donald emerged the champion and gave an early hint about where his golf career was headed.

Not long after that I had a lengthy sitdown with Luke and his brother in their Evanston apartment for a golf magazine profile on golfers with promise. Luke certainly fulfilled his, and remained an extraordinarily strong supporter of the NU program while doing it.

In the near future Donald will like learn if he gets his wish from the Western Golf Assn. He has made it known that he’d like the BMW Championship be moved to Conway Farms, his home course in Chicago, in 2013. I’m not so sure he’ll get his wish on that one. The WGA has been mum on that subject, though Conway would make a viable venue for that tournament.