The 19th Hole Interview: Connor Syme

Having turned professional only two-and-a-half months ago, Connor Syme this week looks forward to making his debut as a full European Tour card holder.

It’s been a successful, whirlwind period for the Scot from Drumoig, who was competing for GB&I in the Walker Cup in early September, before going on to thrive at European Tour Qualifying School. Now the 22-year-old is in Mauritius, teeing up with another young countryman, Bradley Neil, in the second event of the 2018 season at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

Having enjoyed a successful amateur career, which included victory in the 2016 Australian Amateur and a run to the quarter-finals of this year’s US Amateur, Syme hopes to keep his positive start to pro life going…

Connor, your plan was initially to turn professional in 2018 so you must be pleased with your decision so far?

Syme: 2016 Australian Amateur champion

CS: “Qualifying for The Open at Royal Birkdale in the summer was the big standout for me and that’s where dad (coach, Stuart) and I chatted and thought that after the Walker Cup I could turn pro. Certainly, 2018 was probably the farthest out it was going to be, as it was always adaptable. We just felt that getting to the Walker Cup, it felt like the pinnacle of amateur golf and it all led off nicely following a decent run of form, including the US Amateur, to then turning pro.

“I’m obviously delighted I made the decision to turn when I did. It’s been great really since The Open, my form has been good and it’s been great to carry it on straight into pro golf and achieve a Tour card. It’s massive for me and I’m really excited to get going this week.”

You made the cut in your three European Tour starts before Qualifying School, including a top-12 in Portugal and a top-15 at the Alfred Dunhill Links on home soil. Why do you think you have made the transition so smoothly from amateur golf?

CS: “I keep going back to The Open, but I think that really did help me in how I approached things going forward, from course management and beyond. It gave me that confidence that I could compete at that level and not feel out of place. I also had other professional opportunities as an amateur and they helped make me feel more comfortable.

“I’m now delighted to have this chance to test myself against the best players in the world. It’s going to be cool. When you think I was playing in the Walker Cup only two months or so ago, it’s just mental.”

How demanding was Final Stage Qualifying School in Spain (tied ninth overall)?

CS: “I treated it similar to any other event I’ve played in. I went out for dinner with Ewen Ferguson five nights in a row and switched off a bit. Bradley messaged me as well, trying to give me advice after he had been through it last year. It made me more aware of what I was getting into. I tapered back my practice and I felt fresh. It didn’t feel like I was ending after four rounds, I was just trying to churn out the holes. It is a long week over six rounds but you just get on with it.”

How well do you reflect on your amateur career?

CS:  “I would have liked to have won a little more as an amateur, but certainly from the targets myself and my dad were setting throughout this year I was either achieving them or coming really close. Winning events is so difficult, but knowing you can compete is a big thing as well and contributed to the reason I turned pro a little earlier.

Connor Syme

Syme in action at the Carrick Neill Scottish Stroke Play in 2016 at Gullane

“I enjoyed my time with Scottish Golf and the support was superb, including from partners such as Aberdeen Asset Management and Alfred Dunhill Links. I first got into the Scottish Golf Academy in 2011 and progressed through the team levels. Taking advantage of the support has been excellent, including the winter training opportunities and the chance to play in professional events as an amateur.”

You have signed with the Modest! management group, part owned by Niall Horan. How has that been going?

CS: “Niall’s very involved and I’ve met with him a couple of times now. He’s very into his golf and very passionate about it. His involvement makes it an exciting company to be a part of and I couldn’t have been happier with how things have gone.”

What are your goals for the season ahead?

CS: “I haven’t really thought about many goals. I’ll play these two tournaments (the Joburg Open follows in South Africa) and after that we’ll see. It’s still all go at the moment as I now have two more events, when maybe my year could have been coming to an end. I’m really excited to be going away and playing in these events and after that it will be a question of seeing where we are at and where I can play.

“Hopefully I can make a positive start and I’m sure Modest will be trying to help out as well. I’m sure we’ll sit down over Christmas and make a plan for the season. I’m looking forward to it as it’s a new challenge. I’ve had a positive start on the main tour and know I can compete at that level. I need to keep going, but there are other players striving to achieve as well. There is no switching off and every event you have to go and prove yourself again.”

Do you feel there is more Scottish talent coming behind you?

CS: “To maintain a Tour card is no mean feat and I think the guys are currently doing well at that. Myself and Bradley now have Tour cards and we have to work hard to hold onto them too. Robert MacIntyre has a full Challenge Tour card, as does Grant Forrest, and then there are guys like Ewen Ferguson, so hopefully there is more success ahead for young Scottish golfers and we can all spur each other on together.”

Thanks for your time Connor and best of luck for the season ahead!