WALKER CUP hero Paul Cutler has what it takes to emulate Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry and carve out a successful career on the world's professional fairways.
Cutler will take his fledgling steps as a professional at Frilford Heath in Oxfordshire from October 4 to 7, when he plays in the First Qualifying Stage (Section D) of the European Tour's Q-School.
To win a card, Cutler must progress through Stage 2 early in December and then graduate from Final Qualifying in Girona, Spain, a week later.
Yet as he proved last weekend in Royal Aberdeen, where he matched Roddy Carr's Irish record total of three and a half points at the 1971 Walker Cup, Cutler has the game, grit and guile to complete that long and arduous journey.
Judging by his assured top-21 finish on five-under at July's Irish Open, Cutler may even be able to pluck a leaf out of McIlroy's book and shorten that process, should he get a few invites to play on Tour before season's end.
Cutler forged a fabulous foursomes partnership with fellow Ulsterman Alan Dunbar in Aberdeen. He also beat US Amateur Champion Kelly Kraft 2&1 on Saturday and then forced world No 1 amateur Patrick Cantlay to pull out all the stops over the final four holes of Sunday's final singles match to force a half.
"Brilliant," was the word used by captain Nigel Edwards of Wales to describe Cutler's performance after his team had stunned pundits on either side of the Atlantic by completing a 14-12 victory.
"Paul could not have asked for a better climax to his amateur career," said GUI National Coach Neil Manchip. "He's a great lad and in six years on our national panels, from boys through youths and into senior amateur golf, it's been a pleasure and a privilege to work with him."
Manchip insists it's not possible to forecast how any youngster will handle the transition to pro but he added: "Paul definitely has the talent, the ability and the wherewithal mentally to do it."
Turning professional is unlikely to bring Cutler, or Scotland's Walker Cup ace James Byrne, the same endorsement deals as those expected for their team-mate at Royal Aberdeen Tom Lewis, who shot that stunning first-round 65 in July's British Open.