Powering on: Ireland's Olympic star ready to test himself on the PGA Tour
Seamus Power speaks to Newstalk.com about earning his PGA Tour card and learning alongside Padraig Harrington15:35 Monday 24 October 2016, 15:35 24 Oct 2016
Ever the diligent worker, Seamus Power was on the driving range when he discovered he had become the first Irishman to ever win a tournament on the Web.com Tour.
The Waterford native sunk a massive par putt on the final hole to put the gloss on a bogey-free final and clinch the United Leasing and Finance Championship. His work over that week saw him card four consecutive under-par rounds, and he admits the victory was even more momentous then he first thought.
"It was something I never thought about, something that I never realised until somebody said it to me afterwards," he tells Newstalk.com about becoming the first Irishman to win on the tour.
"That was obviously a nice little perk. I was out warming up for a play-off [when I found out]. I was doing very well that week, and it was one of the toughest golf courses that we play all year. Things sort of fell my way in the end."
The 29-year-old finished one stroke clear of American trio Jonathan Randolph, Cody Gribble and Adam Schenk and pocketed $108,000, bringing his total season earnings at the time to $131,733. Finishing on $209,590 was enough to see him enter the top 25 and earn his card to play on the PGA Tour in 2017.
"To win on the Web.com is huge. It puts you in such a good position to get your PGA Tour card. It was a good week, and it was something I built on as the year went on."
He did exactly that, recording three top 10 finishes, eight top 25 finishes and in 21 events, missed the cut just six times. Power's consistency was one of the primary reasons he has continued his journey to the top table of world golf.
His efforts in 2015, he says, didn't accurately reflect his ability as a golfer, and with 2016 came a more reassured and mature performance.
"My game was a little bit better, and I felt more comfortable finishing off tournaments. The year before I tried a little bit too hard toward the end of tournaments and threw away good positions.
"The money can drop off so quickly. The difference between top ten and 17th or 18th can be significant. Overall, I felt more comfortable in my surroundings and I was just able to take advantage of my opportunities a little more."
Performances on the American circuit earned him recognition as one of Ireland's top up-and-coming golfers, and he was able to profit on the much publicised withdrawal of top Irish golfers from this year's Olympic Games in Rio.
"For me it was a no-brainer. It’s something I would never turn down. Guys had their reasons and whatnot. Personally, I see the Olympics as a spectacle of sport. There’s every sport pretty much possible in the Olympics. I don’t see any reason why golf should be any different.
"I think after seeing the feedback, the guys will be wanting it a lot more next time. Other people were aware of the talk, but for me it wasn’t even a decision. Once I got the opportunity to go, I was definitely going to go.
"I kind of understand and respect other guys' decisions. Millions of people are watching the Olympics, compared to any regular golf tournament. To be a part of something so much bigger, I was thrilled. It didn’t take me more than a second to tell Paul [McGinley] that I was going to go."
Seamus Power (right) drives the ball as Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley watch on. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie
Power, playing alongside three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, earned a 15th place finish in Rio and described his experience of competing as "unforgettable."
"It was probably the most fun tournament I’ve ever played in. It was just unbelievable. In golf, it always seems like you’re playing for yourself. I mean, your family are supporting you, but other than that it’s just you out there trying to finish as high as you can on the money list.
"Here you were playing for your country and playing for something so much bigger at the Olympics was really special. To have Padraig and Paul McGinley there and to be there for 10 or 12 days, I couldn’t enjoy it any more.
"I thought I might be able to sneak in on a medal but it wasn’t quite there. It was a great couple of weeks, something I’ll never forget.
"Everyone there was happy to be there and happy to represent their country. It was a great atmosphere, but once the tournament started you could see everyone had their country colours on, it adds a bit more.
"You wanted it that little bit more because you’re part of a team. You’re trying to get that medal. You’re going to be the first golfer in 112 years to win that medal. From what I gathered, everyone that was there really, really enjoyed it."
The experience was also one of learning, competing against some of the best golfers in the world in Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, and picking up any advice he could from his playing partners.
"It was very strong, you’ve got a lot of very good players. You also have guys like Padraig, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar and Thomas Pieters, who a lot of guys might not have known at the time.
"I spoke with Padraig in Rio and he gave me some advice [for preparing on the PGA Tour]. It’s going to be a whole new set of golf courses for me this year. I just asked him how he goes about playing some practice rounds and did he have any advice for me playing in practice rounds.
"Paul was very helpful. You think you have to do all these different, but they just told me to do all the small things well. Don’t worry about the big picture. Make sure you have everything done that you can possibly do."
Having missed the cut by one shot on his first PGA Tour event at the Safeway Open, Power admits that the margins are going to be fine during his maiden season on tour and that retaining his card will rely on taking advantage of every start he is given.
"Anything that I get into, I can play. I don’t have the luxury to pick and choose. A lot will depend on how I’m playing and how I’m progressing. Every time I tee it up, it’s going to be an opportunity to get into contention.
"My goals aren’t going to change. The goal for me here is to get in the top 125 in the FedEx Cup, and get my foot in the door fully for next year.
"I fully believe that I’ve got a talent to win on the PGA Tour. It’s just a matter of getting the right form on the right week and on the right course.
"You just don’t know what will happen so. I’m going to be practicing hard and preparing for every chance I get. You never know when it’s going to be your week.
"Every tournament is going to be a big tournament. Unless I play well early, I’m not going to play in the majors. For me, it’s going to be tournaments where aren’t necessarily going to be big names competing. If I can take advantage of those guys not being there and getting some high finishes - maybe even a win - that could change my schedule significantly."
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