For the rest of his life, Tom Buchanan will always remember what he did during the week of his 38th birthday.
Last month, the former Duddingston assistant professional – now head pro at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club – shot a five-under-par 67 to win a UAE PGA qualifier to earn himself a place in the star-studded $3m Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
To put the achievement into context, Buchanan – who has been in the Middle East since 2012 – has never played in either a European Tour or Challenge Tour event, qualifying just once for an Asian Tour event three years ago and playing on the MENA Tour from 2012-2014.
Now, he’ll be teeing it up alongside the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson and, when reeling off those names, the Scot is still finding it very hard to take in.
“It’s surreal,” Buchanan, who turns 38 on Tuesday, told bunkered.co.uk. “I’ve taken a look at the entry list and I’m in Category 5a – the same as the likes of major champions Graeme McDowell and Jose Maria Olazabal and Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. It’s crazy.
“They’re saying 89 of the top 100 in last year’s Race to Dubai are playing, with 16 major victories and countless European Tour titles. When you start to read those things – I mean I’ve won a couple of PGA events – it’s one of the strongest fields on the European Tour all season so, quite clearly, it’s a massive step up.”
Prior to moving to the UAE, Buchanan worked as an assistant professional at Dumfries & Galloway Golf Club from 1998-2004 before moving to Duddingston in Edinburgh for eight years, where he worked under Alastair McLean.
He’s already received plenty of support on social media from his former clubs, while his brother-in-law and McLean – among others – are jetting out to see him in action.
But what expectations does Buchanan have for the week?
“Making the cut – that would be like winning the tournament,” he added. “That would be the pinnacle for me. If I play well and don’t make the cut, as long as I’ve tried my best then I’ll be happy.
“At the end of the day, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and the biggest week of my life, without a doubt. Thousands of people want to be doing what I’m doing. I’m fortunate enough to be in it and I’m just hoping to enjoy it and make sure I handle myself properly.”