Connor Syme has told bunkered.co.uk how a conversation with two-time European Tour winner Alastair Forsyth helped convince him to turn professional.
The Drumoig youngster is making his debut as a pro in this week’s Portugal Masters at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura.
In doing so, he has called time on a super amateur career, which saw him win the 2016 Australian Amateur, qualify for this year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, reach the quarter-finals of this year’s US Amateur and represent Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup earlier in the month. Just a matter of days ago, he was also crowned Scottish Amateur Golfer of the Year.
Now, his goal is to establish himself in the professional ranks and, as he told bunkered.co.uk earlier today in Portugal, his decision to make the move was helped by a conversation with former Malyasian Open and Madeira Islands Open winner Forsyth.
“I’ve had a lot of chats with numerous different Scottish pros over the past few years and it was last year, when I was in South Africa with the Scotland squad, that I had the chance to speak to Alastair,” explained Syme.
“He was there to play in the Joburg Open and we had a really good conversation. Naturally, the topic of when I might turn professional came up and he told me that, when the time’s right, I’d know instinctively.
"That really stuck with me and it really does feel as though now is the right time to make the move. I’ve had a lot of good experiences this year which I think will stand me in good stead and I feel ready to take my game and test it at the next level.”
Syme, who will continue to be coached by his PGA pro dad Stuart and has caddie Tim Poser continuing on his bag, admits that his schedule is 'a bit up in the air’ at the moment. He hopes to get some more tournament invitations over the coming weeks before going to European Tour qualifying.
Of course, if he makes the same start to his career as Rory McIlroy made to his exactly ten years ago this week, he won’t need to worry about Q-School. Aided largely by a third-place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in just his second start as a pro, McIlroy wrapped up his tour card for the 2008 season, giving his career the perfect launchpad.
Whilst he would love to do likewise, Syme is resisting the temptation to draw any parallels with the Northern Irishman.
“I think comparing anything to Rory McIlroy would be a bit obscene,” he added. “I was 12 when he turned pro. I’ve followed his career pretty closely. He’s just an exceptional talent and, yeah, everybody aspires to be as good as that – but it’s not that easy. It would be amazing to follow in his footsteps and make that kind of a start but I’m not thinking that far ahead. I have to focus on this week, first and foremost.”
Syme, who has signed with One Direction star Niall Horan’s management company MODEST Golf, will take his place in the field of this week’s Portugal Masters alongside the likes of three-time major winner and defending champion Padraig Harrington, Ryder Cup stars Andy Sullivan and Thomas Pieters, and Ryder Cup captains both past and present in the shape of Jose Maria Olazabal and Thomas Bjorn.
Formidable company indeed but there are no signs of nerves from the young Scot.
“I honestly can’t wait to get going,” he said. “I’ve had a few opportunities to play in European Tour events as an amateur but this is my first one as a pro so I’m really excited.
"It feels a little different already and I’m sure it’ll be like that again on Thursday morning when have to get up and realise that I’m not just going to play golf anymore – I’m going to my work!
“As an amateur, it can sometimes feel a little like you’re maybe making up the numbers a little and that you’re there for the experience rather than to compete, post some numbers and make some money, so in that respect I’m treating it slightly differently.
"But as much as possible, I need to try and treat it like I’m just playing a golf course and not playing for cash. You’ve got to block those thoughts out and just focus on hitting the shots one shot at a time. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”