European Tour player Connor Syme tees off at St Andrews next month hoping to become the fourth Scottish winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
During the Championship, which this year celebrates its 20th Anniversary, he says he will almost certainly find himself reflecting back to 2014, when he was just 19 and a talented young amateur, and was given the chance to play on one of golf’s biggest stages.
Connor is one of several professionals whose career path has been helped by a timely appearance as an amateur in the event. Another is Bradley Neil, who went on to win the Amateur Championship.
Each year Alfred Dunhill supports Scottish Golf’s work to encourage young golfers, and from time to time a talented young amateur player receives an invitation to play. That was how Connor found himself lining up with French professional Adrien Saddier in the Team Championship.
He says: “Dunhill has been a great supporter of amateur golf. Giving guys like us an opportunity to play in a European Tour event doesn’t get much better, obviously, with the Dunhill Links being one of the flagship events.
“I will never forget playing as an amateur. It gave me a real taste of the big time and made me even more determined to become a professional. To be able to return to the Dunhill in 2017 as a pro in only my second event was a dream come true.”
Based in Drumoig, just a ten-minute drive from St Andrews, he is coached by his father Stuart, a PGA professional for 30 years, at the Drumoig Golf Centre.
Recalling 2014, he says: “I played great with Adrien. On the Saturday, I shot nine-under-par on the Old Course, so that’s still a really fond memory for me, even though I was playing from the forward tees. It’s funny because I’m competing now with some of the guys I met then, on the European Tour.”
Connor also pays tribute to the support Alfred Dunhill has given for many years to Scottish Golf by also supporting warm weather winter training visits to South Africa where the golfers were given the chance to play in competition and practice in perfect conditions. “It was really expanding our golf with our goal of trying to become a professional golfer,” he adds.
Next month he will be back competing in the Alfred Dunhill Links and trying to join Paul Lawrie, Stephen Gallacher and Colin Montgomerie as Scottish winners.
He says: “I love the event, it's a really, really cool tournament. As much as I travel, I'd say the Old Course is still my favourite golf course to play. It's very, very special. And Kingsbarns. And Carnoustie are equally as good.
“Playing as an amateur in 2014 gave me the chance to compete at some sort of level at that point with the pro’s, but also gave me the chance to meet some incredible people, successful businessmen and great sports people. So you could learn loads.
“I had a lot of things I wanted to try and achieve before turning pro and one of them was definitely gaining pro experience. So for me, it all started off at the Dunhill.”