Stuart Grehan – The Dream Lives On

Ronan MacNamara

Stuart Grehan

Ronan MacNamara

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Whether Stuart Grehan tees it up as a professional is decided on a season-by-season basis these days, but after a trophy-laden winter in Spain, he is feeling better than ever ahead of another big year, writes Ronan MacNamara.

Six months ago, Grehan was sitting down in his room, with a notepad, scribbling the pros and cons as he weighed up whether to continue as a touring professional this year. What kept Grehan going last year was the best season of his career in 2022, winning on the EuroPro Tour, registering four Top-5s, five Top-10s and winning the K Club Pro-Am.

The Tullamore man, now 31, didn’t have his best year in 2023, registering one top-10 on the Challenge Tour and missing five cuts before losing his status on Europe’s second tier. But he is determined to give it another go on the Clutch Pro Tour this term and earn a full Challenge Tour card.

“Six months ago, I was thinking about it. I didn’t even know if I was going to play this year!” the 1364th ranked golfer in the world explains.

“You definitely think about giving up, I’ve had a few run-ins. Golf is such a hard game and so lonely. I remember when I was at my first Q-School I missed the cut and that was tough, that was a hard time, but you have to keep going.

“The family gets you past those moments, you can lean on them, but you have to dig deep yourself and go from there. Six months ago, I didn’t know if I was playing this year but golf can change quickly.

“I was hinging a lot on Spain to see how that goes and that went really well. A couple of sponsors have come on board and I renewed my sponsorship so that makes a big difference.

“I’ve sat down with a notepad for hours weighing up the pros and cons. The pros outweigh the cons. Spain went pretty well so if I didn’t I would regret it.”

The all-important ten weeks spent in Spain proved fruitful and beneficial for Grehan who picked up wins on both the Winter Golf Tour and the Toro Tour, including a twelve-shot win on the latter with rounds of 62, 63 and 62. Grehan placed second on the Winter Golf Tour Order of Merit which has given him a Challenge Tour invite later this season.

“Golf is always a bit easier when you have shorts and a t-shirt on, so it was a nice couple of months,” he beams. “Winning is an important skill to have and learn, especially if you are trying to make it in this game! It was nice, I had a goal of going down there and getting a couple of wins, so to get two with some other good results was great and I was pleased with my work down there.

“The first swing on the Winter Tour got me a Challenge Tour start, not sure where yet but I should know soon. It’s nice to go down there and play good golf and get rewarded for it as well so it was good.

“To be honest, it was a pretty scorable course on the Toro Tour, but you have to go out and do it. I had a really good week of ball striking, actually didn’t putt fantastic which sounds crazy when you see the scores but just played really well tee to green and kept the ball rolling for the last couple of rounds.”

Grehan had a nine-shot lead going into the final round, but he still felt some pressure as the man to beat.

“It was a weird one, I think I was leading by nine going into the last round,” he recalled. “The standard isn’t amazing but there are some nice players there but there was no benefit for me in the last round. I was worried about losing a nine-shot lead and the slagging I would get. But to go out and produce a really good round – I was very proud of myself for going and increasing the lead.

“It’s harder to hold the lead, it depends on the amount. I had a two-shot lead on the Winter Tour, but I didn’t feel as much pressure as I did with the nine-shot lead, so there is more pressure, but you have to focus on yourself and let your golf take over.

“The confidence I have got from those two wins is huge. To be able to shoot good numbers and see some good signs in my game and improve certain aspects, I am very content.”

The reality of having minimal status on the Challenge Tour and waiting around for the Clutch Pro Tour to start is that Grehan’s world requires a lot of self-restraint. Clearly playing well, the Offaly man will have to be patient for seven weeks before he can play competitively again by which stage he will have had to build himself up all over again.

“There is frustration,” he admits. “There are aspects of my game I want to improve so it is nice to have the time off but at the same time, you are in nice form and confidence is up so it would be nice to jump in but I knew when I came home I would have a couple of months off so I’ll just keep plugging away and go from there.”

Opportunities will come on the Clutch Tour and that will be Grehan’s focus as he looks to notch at least a couple of victories and earn one of the three Challenge Tour cards available for 2025.

“If I do well on Clutch, I might stick to that instead of jumping somewhere,” he says. “My focus will be the Clutch Tour for the first four weeks and then I will reassess. I feel my game is in the best shape it has ever been in. Golf is a strange game you can go places very quickly, but you can equally go the wrong direction as fast so I’m looking forward to seeing what lies ahead.

“They have three full Challenge Tour cards and then a lot of other invites. You can get a decent Challenge Tour status from it.

“It’s difficult and it’s hard to plan when you’re going to play slightly bigger events, but you have to keep the head down and keep improving. I used to get so wound up about not playing but now I know I’m ready for whatever opportunity arises. If it comes, brilliant if not fine I’ll keep working away,” adds Grehan.

Hard work will be done with Gordon Smyth on his short game in the Raflewski Golf Europe facility at the Slieve Russell, while his beautiful ball striking is testament to the hard work he puts in with David Ruddy.

“I’ve been with Gordon a while, so going up there to work on my putting and set up, just little things. I fall into bad habits when I am away so it’s a really good facility up there. He has all the tech up there which is nice. We have worked together for two years so long may it continue.

“My setup can be lopsided, so just making sure that’s correct, ball position, eye position, just little things but they can make huge differences to your stroke. One thing we focus on is eyeline to make sure I’m looking in the correct spots. “Both of the lads are brilliant I can WhatsApp either of them which is a great thing to have when travelling. David is brilliant – he always wants to help you learn – and having them in my corner is a huge plus.

“I used to put my phone on my bag and David would say the angle was too low, so ever since I got a tripod, he is able to work off the proper swing. I know what I do well and not so well, a quick video puts me on track. It’s good to have a solid blueprint in place.”

The Offaly man turned pro in late 2017 after a season that had him ranked as Ireland’s No 1 amateur. While he was trying to find his feet after a lean year on the now defunct EuroPro Tour, his world was turned upside down by the Covid Pandemic.

“It was tough. Very, very tough,” he laments. “I remember trying to fly to Europe with three people on the plane, trying to do antigen tests before you fly and then at tournaments doing antigen tests just after your round to fly home the next day and it was really expensive.

“It was very hard, a lot of car hires on your own, hotels on your own, marking your own score on the course it was such a weird experience but hopefully it’s behind us.”

Before that, Grehan enjoyed a glittering amateur career. He represented Leinster, Ireland, GB&I and Europe multiple times as an Amateur. He was third in the World Amateur Team Championships, Mexico 2016.

He won six times as an Amateur in total; the 2012 Irish Youths, 2013 Firestone Inv, 2015 East of Ireland, 2015 South of Ireland, 2017 R&A Scholars, 2017 Mullingar Scratch Trophy.

One of the highlights was representing Europe twice in the Palmer Cup where he rubbed shoulders with Will Zalatoris, Collin Morikawa, Adrian Meronk and Viktor Hovland and also GB&I in the St.Andrews Trophy.

A broken arm while playing football in Maynooth four months prior to the 2017 Walker Cup cost him a place on the team but he is still pleased with what he achieved at amateur level.

“Putting on the green jersey at the Homes for the first time was brilliant,” he recalls. “It’s great to be part of the camp, going away, playing money games against the lads. You miss those days to be honest, going on trips to really nice places and countries, it was a great time. Part of me wishes I could have more of that but it was a great time.

“Winning the Irish Youths was great, it was the first title I won and it told me I am actually OK at this game. I got a few nice ones after that as well. Mullingar was quite good as well. I wasn’t even going to play the event that week I think I had a nine-shot lead with a couple of holes to go but it was nice to hit a low number so they are the two standouts.

“It’s only 25 minutes from my home house in Tullamore so seeing Rory and Shane [McIlroy and Lowry – both past winners of the Mullingar Scratch Cup] on it is pretty cool.

“Palmer Cup was so cool. I played with some of the best players, Will Zalatoris, Collin Morikawa, Maverick McNealy, Viktor Hovland, Adrian Meronk. It was amazing, we won it in Europe and lost in America.”

A lot has changed for Grehan in the last twelve months. He’s now married and expecting his first child. Knowing he has to earn a living to provide for his soon to be larger family, he recently passed his first set of QFA exams, another indication that his professional career is very much on a year-by-year basis.

“I’m studying for my QFA’s now which is to become a qualified financial advisor. I’m in the middle of exams and I will be starting a part time job. I have always had an interest in that since I was in school. To go on and study it gives me a backboard and takes some pressure off me playing golf.

“That’s my thinking and it’s just nice to have a backup plan and it has freed me up. I passed my exam before the first tournament and I won,” said Grehan who has picked up Flogas and Hibernia Steel as new sponsors in addition to his three-year deal with Mitsubishi Electric. Deals which are crucial to funding his pro dream.

“Mitsubishi have been with me for three years now,” he adds. “Ciaran and all the team have been great to me. Flogas and Hibernia Steel have come on this year, and it’s been great to have them. You can’t be a professional without sponsorship in my opinion, it’s very important. To have them for this year and maybe beyond is fantastic and I’m very pleased with how it’s gone.”

Grehan knows the clock is starting to tick on him. Confident that he is starting to turn a corner in terms of his performances, he knows results will dictate what he does next year and the pros and cons list in the notepad will be coming out again at the end of the year.

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