Since leaving the amateur ranks late last year, Tullamore’s Stuart Grehan has enjoyed a fast and frantic start to his professional career.
Successful navigation of the preliminary and final qualification stages for the EuroPro Tour followed hot on the heels of 25-year-old Stuart Grehan’s maiden professional victory at the Palmares Classic on the Algarve Pro Tour in February but since then, Grehan – who was Ireland’s sole representative at last year’s U.S. Amateur – has experienced mixed fortunes as he has divided his time playing Euro Pro events and European Challenge Tour events when possible.
After a rather stuttering start which saw him miss two out of his opening three cuts, Grehan found his groove at the Motocaddy Masters, ultimately finishing second, and earning the biggest cheque of his career to date.
Since then, “Stewy” as he is known to friends, has featured at the weekend in all but three of his entries on the European circuit, however, it’s been far from plain sailing as he has been forced to adjust to the often lonely life of a touring professional.
“It’s a lot different to what I expected to be honest,” Grehan said, “It’s a much more selfish environment, travelling on your own, looking after yourself, paying for yourself, and it’s something that probably took me about four months to get used to. I’m starting to come around to it now, but it is a little bit different because growing up with the GUI, you always had teams going away, so in that regard, it’s a little more lonely.”
High expectations can be both a blessing and a curse in professional sports, and such was Grehan’s prodigious advances through the golf ranks – he only started playing aged fourteen and just three years later found himself owing shots to the course at a handicap of plus-one – that it was only natural that he set the bar high for himself for 2018.
“To be honest, I was very harsh on myself. You know, I had to look at things a few weeks ago, but it has been a successful year in one way but maybe not in another. First year out, it’s your apprentice year, so I probably need to take a step back at the end of the year and put things into perspective, but I’ve a few good weeks coming up, so if I can play well in those then I would definitely class it as a successful year.”
First up is the Monaghan Irish Challenge at Concra Wood this week. When asked what would constitute a good week, Grehan was more focused on getting the mental approach right rather than worrying too much about results. “If I keep a level head and stick to my game plan then I think that’d be successful.”
Easier said than done, however, as the standard on the Challenge Tour has risen to the extent that it is very close to being on par with the main European Tour. “The standard now is incredible,” he said, “you have very tough golf courses and 20-under-par winning.”
Concra Wood could well present a stiffer test than most weeks however, with the dropping temperatures making the course play longer and the threat that stiff winds will play havoc on the more elevated holes in particular.
Looking ahead, Grehan has been using statistical analysis to identify where he needs to improve in order to take his game to the next level. An aggressive player, making birdies has never been an issue for the Offaly-man, however, the good play has often been offset by the frustrating errors that are so often a by-product of an aggressive approach. “On an average week, you need to be between 16 and 22-under-par to be in with a chance on the Challenge Tour. I make enough birdies, so obviously limiting the bogeys is what I need to do. Just need to be smarter really. Don’t hit driver when I don’t need to be hitting driver.”
As for his own chances this week?
“Look, my good golf is well good enough, I know that, but when I’m not playing so good, it’s all about where I miss, what kind of shots I leave myself, but I know I am good enough, just putting it out on the course is what I have to do.”
Almost a year to the day since Grehan opted to forge his way in the professional ranks, it’s been a case of lessons learned, experience gained, and some very good golf.
Now for the next step…