One of Scotland’s leading amateurs, Connor Syme, is relishing the chance to tee up in golf’s oldest Major Championship this week – The Open at Royal Birkdale.
Having shared top spot at Final Qualifying at Gailes Links to earn his place in the star-studded field, we caught up with the 2016 Australian Amateur champion and Walker Cup contender, as the Drumoig player, 22, prepares for his dream week.
Connor, how thrilled are you to be playing this week at Royal Birkdale?
“I’m looking forward to being there and soaking it all up. It’s another situation where there is nothing to lose, it’s going to be an amazing experience. I’ve had some experience of playing in Australia (Emirates Australian Open) and South Africa (Joburg Open) in professional events, so hopefully that does help me to be able to handle the situation a little better than maybe if I hadn’t had those experiences. I’m going to take it all in, there will be tens of thousands of people, it will be totally different to what I’ve played in before.”
The Australia experience last year, in particular, should help, having received an invitation following your amateur win Down Under?
“There were big crowds in Australia and that sticks out as a good experience. I was playing in the game in front of Jordan Spieth, so there were obviously thousands and thousands of people out watching him. Again, having that bit of familiarity will be a big part of it for me, but I’m just going to try and soak it up and enjoy it all. Hopefully I can make the cut and we’ll see what happens.”
What has the reaction been like from family and friends since qualifying?
“I couldn’t keep up with the notifications on my phone, it was crazy! It’s been cool to have such a buzz about it though, it’s been amazing. It’s been great to have so many friends getting in touch, so it’s cool when good things happen.”
How did you handle the pressure at Gailes?
“I feel like I’ve been playing really well this season. I came over to Scotscraig the day before actually (to see the Scottish Boys & Girls events) and had a chat with Graeme Leslie (Golf Data Lab), as we do all our stats through him.
“I was looking for an insight into how my year was going and Graeme is very knowledgeable on how all the stats work. He gave me a few pointers on what I could improve on and practice. He notified a few areas that I wasn’t necessarily aware of in my game. Having something else to think about really helped me and I felt much more positive at Gailes about what I was doing. It helped my thinking throughout, including putting and iron advice. It’s weird, but it worked. It’s a mental game!”
Have you lined up any practice rounds this week?
“I got a message from Paul Lawrie on the evening of the Gailes qualifier, congratulating me on getting in so that was nice. I messaged him back and hopefully I’m going to get a bit of practice with him over the first few days. It doesn’t get much better than that, getting a knock with him (the 1999 Open champion) and picking his brains a little bit and see if that helps.”
How much has the support of Scottish Golf helped your progress into the top 10 in the world amateur rankings?
“It’s been amazing to be a part of the Scottish Golf squad since 2014, that year was my first overseas performance trip away. It has massively helped my development. It was why I decided in the end not to go to college in America because of the support offered through Scottish Golf. That’s where I felt like it would best benefit me for my ambition to turn professional. With the opportunities in the winter abroad, I don’t think they do come much better. I was very fortunate to go to Australia when I did, and manage to get a win, which has helped me over the last couple of years. It’s brilliant the support that we get.”
What are your future plans?
“My plan is still the same. I will most likely go to Tour Q-School as an amateur at the end of the year. Obviously, there has been a bit of chat with my dad (Stuart, a PGA pro) about my future plans and we’ll see what happens. I could turn pro this year, but if not it will be the end of 2018 using next year more of a transitional year if Tour School didn’t work out.”
Thanks Connor, and good luck from all of Scottish golf to you, Paul Lawrie, Sandy Lyle, Russell Knox, Martin Laird, Richie Ramsay and David Drysdale at Royal Birkdale this week!