How quickly the Walker Cup becomes a distant memory when the pro golf calendar returns. Two weeks ago, GB&I had 12 heroes in their win over the USA and most of those winners turned pro the next day. Last week, three gained entry to the Austrian Open while three more made their way to the First Stage of Q School in order to seek a Tour Card for 2012. So what happened to them and, more importantly, what might happen to them as pros?
Well, Tom Lewis, Silver Medal winner at the Open Championship, was the highest profile GB&I player and proved the most successful last week with a tied 10th finish in Austria while Andy Sullivan also made the cut. Lewis’s position as one of the leading amateurs in the world, plus the fact that he won £15,500 on his pro debut, will allow him as many as seven more appearances this season to get that Card while Sullivan will get a handful himself. They are, as you might say, already on their professional way. If, as is most likely though, they don’t finish in the top 115 in the Race To Dubai, then Q School will beckon.
However, it was not all good news for Walker Cup heroes in Austria because one of the real stalwarts of the last day of the amateur event in Aberdeen, Paul Cutler of Ireland, had a bit of a mare in Austria and looked, well, a bit of an amateur. OK, it’s only week one for all of them, but pro golf is a game that continues to get tougher, so a slow start is not helpful.
Over at Wychwood Park in Cheshire, three more Walker Cuppers – Jack Senior, Steven Brown and Michael Stewart (the only one to remain an amateur) – were in action at Qualifying School First Stage and again two out of three performed with distinction.
I walked along with Senior on the first day and he should have been five under after nine holes, but missed every makeable putt. Still, he remained very patient with his game that is a good sign for his future and along with Brown, progressed easily to Second Stage. Both will also make their European Tour debuts in the next few weeks.
However, despite being one of the stars in Aberdeen when winning amateur golf’s most prestigious team trophy, Stewart suffered in Cheshire on day two during high winds with an 83 and never recovered. The Scot – touted by Chubby Chandler’s ISM as a great prospect – will not probably stay amateur and enter Q School in 2012.
So what does this all mean? Well, I think it’s safe to say that making the Walker Cup team is a pretty good lift-off point for the career of any young aspiring pro golfer on the European Tour. And it’s not just the Rory McIlroy’s who have used recent Walker Cup experience as a pro springboard, there are a host of names – indeed, winners – to prove the point: think of Rhys Davies and David Horsey on the European Tour and Tommy Fleetwood on this season’s Challenge Tour and you can add young men like Jamie Moul, Sam Hutsby and Lloyd Saltman who are moving steadily up the pro ranks.
So it’s a good bet that one of the 2011 Walker Cuppers will be making a mark in the pro ranks real soon, but there is always another side to the story. Joining Senior and his young pals at Wychwood Park was Iain Pyman, himself a Walker Cupper and also a Silver Medal winner at the Open in the same year 1993. But Iain, a chum from my many Q School visits, is a 38-year-old self-confessed journeyman pro with a dodgy back who has earned over a million Euros in his time, but never won a Main Tour event. Still, he happily barrels up at the School, tells great stories of the Tour and enjoys the cut and thrust of competition. McIlroy or Pyman? This year’s Walker Cuppers should be happy to be either.
Ross Biddiscombe is the author of two books about the European Tour Qualifying School. For more details, go to golfontheedge.co.uk