When Seamus Power signed off on a disjointed 2020 campaign languishing in 429th position on the world rankings and recovering from elbow surgery in November, the outlook for 2021 wasn’t good.
Playing off limited status, missed cuts at the Farmers and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as he reappeared this year hardly helped, but then how often does this great game of ours plaster those trying to predict it with egg on their face? Five months later and the West Waterford swinger teed up at this past week’s Barbasol as the bookies’ favourite to land his first PGA Tour title at the 106th time of asking. On Sunday, Power justified the tag.
Victory has launched Seamus Power’s career into another stratosphere; his PGA Tour card secured for two years; starts at The Players and a Major debut at the PGA await, but more excitingly, so does the prospect of picking his schedule from a glut of options for the first time in his career – an opportunity that would’ve looked a million miles away just five months ago.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” Power said. “So ’19, ’20, ’21 I was in the not fully exempt category and it’s tough, it’s frustrating. You want to play, you want to play more, you’re looking at guys playing in tournaments passing you and you’re looking at your FedEx number dropping and dropping and dropping.
“But I knew that was part of it, so it’s going to be nice to be able to make my schedule. A lot of it hasn’t sunk in yet, to be honest. As someone just mentioned stuff to me, I didn’t even know that it guarantees me a spot in The Players. It’s just fantastic. For now I’m just over the moon with the win, and in the next couple days – maybe not tomorrow – but Tuesday I’ll start figuring some of the stuff out!”
Power’s dead right to drink in this enormous achievement before his eyes open to the wonders that await inside the Pearly Gates of a PGA Tour winners’ circle. After all, if life really is all about the journey and not the destination (so motivational quotes on bathroom walls would tell you), then his road to riches has been paved with perseverance and hard work – not that Power is convinced by the latter.
“I’m 34 and I’ve never worked a day in my life,” he said post-round on Sunday, and as refreshing as that is to hear, I can’t be having it.
Sure, if you love what you do they reckon you’ll never work a day in your life (ref another bathroom wall) but Power’s always been a grinder – playing on a razor’s edge as Bryson would say – and whatever pressure he felt in that playoff on Sunday could hardly compare to some of the ‘playing for bread on the table’ scenarios he’s found himself in to get to this privileged point on Tour.
Let’s reverse the clock to Power’s amateur days where winning came easy at West Waterford Golf Club – fighting for its life on July 29th when the club goes up for sale at an online auction. Power was pivotal in helping his club to three All-Ireland junior foursomes’ titles before claiming three Irish Youths. His talent turned heads across the Atlantic where he received a scholarship to the renowned East Tennessee State University, whose coach at the time was head-hunting a certain Rory McIlroy.
Needless to say, Power didn’t have to think twice before accepting. There, just as he did back home, he scored several collegiate wins, but he also graduated with a First-class honours Degree in Accounting, long refusing to pin all his hopes on golf.
“I’m probably logical to a fault,” he told me in 2016. “Golf is one of those sports that’s tough to judge; who’s going to make it and who won’t? I knew enough top amateurs personally that for all the world looked like they’d make it and went on to struggle. I didn’t want to be 25 with no qualification or Plan B.”
34 now and plan A is working out just fine but when Power was plying his trade amongst the money games of the E Golf Tour in the early-noughties, that insurance policy of a degree in his back pocket seemed like a pretty wise move.
Far from the affluent world of the PGA Tour where it seems harder to spend money than earn it, Power, along with 200 or so others would stump up $1200 in cash each week and if you played well, you’d take some of it home. If you didn’t, break out the beans on toast.
“It was nerve racking stuff, basically playing for your livelihood. I got some great help from the Irish Sport’s Council for four or five years and without it I would’ve been in major trouble,” Power said.
Thankfully he also enjoyed some success in 2012 that alleviated some financial strain but after examining his game as a collective, Power felt he was a more talented player than his results were showing and turned to good friend Ken Guilford in 2013 to inspire an uplift in performance. Naturally there was a bedding-in period but in 2014, Power found the consistency he’d craved his whole career, breaking 70 an incredible 34 times in 52 rounds.
He carried that form into Qualifying School, an arena he was no stranger to having narrowly missed out on his card in 2011 following a Rich Beem birdie blitz that pipped him by one. A year later he was cruising under the mark only for a bad finish to derail his hopes of qualifying, missing out by two.
“They were tough ones to swallow. 2014 was my fourth year playing mini tours and in hindsight, if that year hadn’t gone well, I’m not sure how much more I would’ve played.”
And that’s how close the margins are in golf. So many players forever stuck at a crossroads. The drug of knowing one good week could change it all a tough one to resist.
And who could blame Power for not wanting to keep putting himself through the wringer? He described Qualifying School as the most unenjoyable tournament he’d ever played – by far – an excruciating, nerve-jangling washing machine of emotions that push tour hopefuls to their limits, year after year after year. Which made his Palm Beach procession to qualification in 2014 all the more impressive.
“I guess it was a case of drawing on my experiences,” Power recalled, who led the E Golf Tour money list with $78,154 from 15 events that year. “I finished second at First Stage and then won Second Stage by five shots. I played consistently well at Final Stage and I suppose it’s about as easy as I could’ve gotten through.”
It meant Power was one step closer to his ultimate goal of competing on the PGA Tour – stepping out on the secondary Web.com in 2015 knowing he had the game to compete having traded blows with proven performers in Brian Harman and Hudson Swafford on mini tours already.
Results were again slow to arrive but such is the fickle nature of the game, even one shot can trigger change, and a hole-in-one at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina injected a timely boost of cash into Power’s back pocket. It initially handed him the keys to a brand new BMW X4 but back then, Power couldn’t even afford to keep it.
“You won it but you still had to pay taxes on it. So it was going to be a huge tax bill. When I didn’t get my PGA Tour card at the end of the year I figured I should downgrade and use the money a little more smart.”
I guess that accounting degree came in handy after all.
These days Power can afford to buy his own shiny new set of wheels should he wish, the money worries of golf gone by are well and truly in the rear-view mirror having earned $1,484,029 on the fairways alone this year.
His form of the last few weeks would rival anyone on Tour. Figures that read T9, T19, T19, T8, T8, W… 82-under par for that six-tournament stretch and reaping the benefits having risen to 69th on the FedEx standings, 113th in the world rankings and suddenly unshackled from the uncertainty of limited status.
I’ll admit that part of me expected more of his immediate celebration after tapping in his winning par over JT Poston in the playoff. So much work went into that moment – grinding by day and dreaming by night – I was expecting an outpouring of relief. Elation. Unbridled joy.
But then the manner of the celebrations tells its own story. One of a man who has not only been trending towards this win for some time now but who wasn’t one bit surprised when he got there. From E Tour to The Tour, it’s been quite the ride for Seamus Power. Don’t expect to see him out on a PGA Tour fairway again until the Wyndham but when he returns, strap yourselves in. This journey’s only getting started.
For more Reaction to Seamus Powers win, Listen to this week’s Podcast