Tuesday, May 28, 2024

“My good golf could take me as far as the top-50, playing in a major is a huge goal” – Irish Golfer Magazine

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“Wait til I show the videos, I’ve never seen anything like it! It was crazy, non stop for eight hours,” Conor Purcell explains when showing an underwater driving range at the Abu Dhabi Challenge during the infamous storms that flooded the UAE.

The Portmarnock man came through unscathed and after back-to-back top-10s kickstarted his Challenge Tour season he is looking to cause a storm of his own as he dreams big over the next few years.

Purcell has had a pandemic hit beginning to his professional career but after four years of trying to find his feet he is intent on getting off the Challenge Tour ASAP and firing through the ranks all the way to the major championships and the PGA Tour.

“I look at every week as an investment in my future self trying to get off Challenge Tour onto DP World Tour and hopefully onto the PGA Tour one day,” explains the Malahide native whose calm nature hides a player bursting with ambition to hit the big time.

“Obviously majors are a little bit out of reach as of yet but things can happen really quickly in golf as I am well aware and if I can go on a hot run I would like to think my good golf could take me as far as top-50 in the world. It’s about staying patient and playing good golf and not getting caught up in results or anything like that, just put in the work and see where it takes me.

“Playing in a major is a huge goal of mine, the sooner I can do that the happier I will be.”

US Open qualifying is well underway while Co Louth Golf Club (Baltray) will host the Irish leg of qualifying for the 152nd Open Championship in Royal Troon. But Purcell is prepared to wait his turn and prioritise promotion from the Challenge Tour to the DP World Tour.

“Not yet I plan to just play my schedule as is, play the odd DP World Tour event if I can get into one. I prefer tournament weeks, qualifiers have never been my favourite thing to go and play and hopefully down the line I will be playing in plenty of majors.”

DP World Tour starts will come the way of the 26-year-old who will most likely secure a start in the Amgen Irish Open in Royal County Down. And he remains on course to make those appearances a regular occurrence by earning his full card next year via the top-20 in the Road to Mallorca Rankings on the Challenge Tour.

Back-to-back top-10s have seen him rise to 17th in the order of merit ahead of a busy summer schedule in Europe.

“I would have said it was a relatively slow start,” admits Purcell. “I was playing quite well for periods during each week, having one or two poor days then just finishing in the middle of the pack which was a little frustrating when your game is very close. Last two weeks I have pieced it together for four weeks which is great and climbed up the rankings.

“I think for me it was annoying me the fact the bad scores were on weekends. The courses are tougher at the weekends and course strategy and mentality were playing a part in me being defensive. It’s about going out there and playing the same golf that I do on a Thursday or Friday and that’s worked well over the last two weeks.

“It comes thick and fast once we get back to Europe, it’s just about scheduling it well. I tend to not play more than three in a row, so I need to get strict with myself and not get caught chasing the hamster wheel too much. Stick to what I’ve been doing and hopefully the end of the year it works out that I’m in the top-20. Immediate term just keep doing what I’m doing.”

Purcell turned professional in 2019 but he has had it tough with his formative years as a pro hampered by the Covid pandemic. Since then he has had to take the scenic route to just make it onto Europe’s second tier.

An impressive season on the Alps Tour saw him earn a host of starts on the Challenge Tour in 2022, which he capitalised on to earn full playing rights for last season. A trip to the Grand Final was a step in the right direction despite missing out on a top-20 spot and Purcell feels a tough learning curve could be the best thing in the long run.

“It feels like last year was my first proper crack at it, I feel you mature as a golfer in the space of four or five years. I feel a lot more comfortable playing events. Earlier I would have felt out of my depth but the more you expose yourself to those situations you realise everyone is in the same boat and that golf maturity is a real thing. Each year you gain on experiences from the year previous and learn from each year.

“Just getting used to being on the road a lot and when you are home it’s about resting up enough to get ready to go and do it again for a few weeks.”

Now one of the top stars on the Challenge Tour and at this early stage of the season, Ireland’s only realistic chance of promotion to the DP World Tour, Purcell knows notching a maiden tour victory will tick a lot of boxes for where he wants to go.

“Absolutely it’s a huge goal of mine (to win).”

The Challenge Tour is much maligned but there is undoubtedly a career path to the top for budding young professionals. Purcell need only look at the Order of Merit roll of honour and see names such as Thomas Bjorn, Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood and Edoardo Molinari while Brooks Koepka has long credited his experiences on the Challenge Tour for helping him become a five-time major winner.

“There definitely is a path, it’s a good breeding ground as it teaches you to be quite disciplined in what you are doing. Facilities wouldn’t be as good as the higher tours but I have been enjoying it as of recently and hopefully I can keep moving forward,” Purcell adds.

For now, Purcell’s experiences of the bright lights of the PGA Tour will be restricted to a watching brief but watching Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry combine to win the Zurich Classic has only wetted his appetite to join them over the coming years.

“It was very cool to see, it’s interesting to watch when you see two lads who have had so much success, they get so much enjoyment from just playing with each other and having the craic out there and it’s always great to see Irish winning on tour. It gets me excited and makes me want to be out there as much as they are.

“Professional golf can be like that you can get caught up in your own head and you can take it too seriously and I think a lot of people are starting to realise it’s not so much the less you try the better you play but the less like a job you treat it and just think of it when you were young, enjoy it, work hard and it should take you to where you want to be. I’m trying to do that to the best of my ability.”

 

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