Thursday 19 October 2017

Surging Power dreams big after winning back card in knife-edge finish

Waterford man aims to reap reward from rookie season on  PGA Tour after 'most uncomfortable' day 

Seamus Power. Photo: Getty Images
Seamus Power. Photo: Getty Images

Barry Lennon

Pat Murphy remembers the last time Seamus Power returned home to West Waterford during his rookie year on the PGA Tour.

"Seamus came home for long enough, and I don't know what he was celebrating but he missed two cuts after going back. Too many visits to the local, I'd imagine," laughs the club stalwart and founding captain.

Even though there's been a lot to celebrate this year, Power didn't travel to California's Napa Valley this week to toast his recent success with the region's famed wines.

The 30-year-old travelled there to play the Safeway Open, his first Tour event since winning back his card after a knife-edge finish on Monday.

It's been a rocky road to get here, not least because he lost his clubs on the flight from the Florida qualifying event, his last chance to retain Tour status.

The Waterford man held on to his card by his fingernails, finishing 48th at the Web.com Tour Championship to take the 25th - and the final - spot on offer from the play-offs.

"It was probably the most uncomfortable tournament I ever played in. It was strange. I felt like I was looking over my shoulder," Power reflected.

"I made such a mess of the last hole the previous week. If I'd have parred that last hole in Cleveland, I would have won back my card comfortably. I would have been able to sit back and watch some of it."

Power credits his caddie John Rathouz with keeping him "sane" last weekend, as he did throughout the year which saw him make 19 out of 25 cuts and earn over $640,000.

"I sometimes have a habit of getting down a little bit more than I should and he's always there to remind me of certain things. 'You've got a couple of fives coming up here, you can make a couple of birdies'," he said.

Enough

Rathouz's home in Omaha, Nebraska is over 2,000km away from Power's in Charlotte, North Carolina, but it's close enough.

"I'm still going to see him 27 or 28 weeks (of the year). You're talking about spending eight hours a day, six days a week with someone. Time apart is important too," Power added.

Paul Dunne's heroics at the British Masters helped inspire Power, who was able to watch the final day at Close House in Florida after his own last round was rained off.

Although, missing out on a PGA Tour card was enough incentive for Power - his old juniors coach Murphy described it as "a licence to print money."

"The PGA Tour is pretty much ten times the amount (of money) you're playing for on the Web.com Tour," Power said.

"They take care of you much, much better. The food is good. Just even this week, you fly into the airport and they're waiting for you with a courtesy car. (On the Web.com) You'd be renting a car.

"But the biggest thing is knowing the golf courses. You just know the golf courses change a lot from when you play on Tuesday to the weekend. Things change a lot, they get firmer, they get faster and pins are in spots you might not expect. There's a lot of guys here for the first time but it'll be my second, so I've an advantage there."

The Rio Olympian went closest at the Wells Fargo Championship last May where he shared the lead on the first day, and remained in contention until a five-over Saturday 77.

The setback was another lesson in his golfing education, which started in West Waterford.

The Dungarvan club has supported him along the way, chipping in financially when he earned his scholarship to East Tennessee State University.

The accountancy graduate remembers this generosity and that of his old juniors coach Murphy - his house is often the first he visits when he returns home.

"Last year Seamus came up to the house, and I said to him, 'Seamus, you're getting a bit long in the tooth now,'" Murphy recalled. "Seamus said to me, 'Ah maybe, but what is the average age for a Masters winner?' I said, 'Jaysus, I don't know,' but I started thinking about the Rory McIlroys and the Jordan Spieths. 'Actually, it's 32.' He was right."

With youth is on his side, Power has reason to be cheerful as he continues his quest for PGA Tour glory, hopefully adding to his old club's success.

Celebrations of his recent milestone are on hold in the Déise until he returns home next month - his first visit since last March. "(This) is probably the longest I've been away. So I'm going to spend a little bit longer this time," Power said.

"One of my brothers is moving home from Australia with his wife and their first child. So it'll be good to see them and spend some time with everyone."

After 28 weekends on the road rest will be in order. But with the club's most famous son returning after securing PGA status there will soon be cause for celebration in West Waterford.

begrudge

"I think you shouldn't mention the word celebrations down here in West Waterford because those guys down here, they know how to celebrate," Murphy says.

"When a guy like Seamus comes back to his own club, they all want a bit of him.

"They all want to take him out for a drink and they all want to take him out for dinner. It's marvellous."

Even Murphy won't have reason to begrudge the celebrations this time.

Irish Independent

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