It was easy for Seamus Power to be in a good mood Tuesday upon his return to the Evansville area.
“Last time I was here, I was driving back my car with a giant check in the back seat so that’s a nice memory to have,” said Power, who won the United Leasing & Finance Championship – and its $108,000 top prize — on May 1 at Victoria National Golf Club.
The 29-year-old Irishman spoke at Biaggi’s on the East Side to promote the 2017 ULFC, which will take place April 20-23.
Power’s victory last spring all but clinched his promotion from the Web.com Tour to the PGA Tour, where he has made 10 starts this season. It was the breakthrough moment of a professional career that began in 2011 and involved three seasons of knocking around on American mini-tours until he earned his Web.com Tour status.
“When you come to a Web tournament or a PGA tournament there’s a prize fund, where in the mini-tour every player puts in a chunk of their own money so it’s a little different,” he said. “In one sense it’s a little more pressure because if you have a couple bad weeks, it really hurts. It’s not easy. When people mention professional golf, they don’t think of stuff like that. They think of PGA Tour and think of making millions and millions and millions, but that’s not real life for most guys.”
Some golfers in Power’s position would have given up. But he always believed he could make it in the sport, and that’s now coming to fruition. Power has made the cut in seven of 10 PGA Tour events this season, earning $201,963 in prize money.
“If I ever had the realization that I wasn’t going to be able to make it, if I thought I wasn’t good enough, I would’ve quit almost on the spot,” he said. “For me it wasn’t a time thing. If I knew deep down I was good enough and could make it, I was going to keep chasing it.”
Power has had a couple of pinch-me moments in the last year. Playing on the PGA Tour for the first time this season, he called it “surreal” to find himself warming up next to Phil Mickelson, and to play in the group behind the thousands of fans following Mickelson.
He also fell into an Olympic spot last summer when three higher-ranked Irishmen, including Rory McIlroy, turned down the opportunity to compete in Rio. Power tied for 15th with a four-round total of 5-under-par.
“The first tee shot in the first round is something I’m never going to forget,” he said. “It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had for a 10-minute period on a golf course. You’re standing on the first tee and there’s probably two or three hundred Irish flags just waving around the tee box. … I don’t know where they all came from and then people singing the Irish National Anthem and stuff like that, it was crazy. It was an incredible experience.”
Having success at Victoria National – one of the most difficult courses on the second-tier tour – gave Power confidence he could thrive at the top level of the sport.
One shot from that ULFC win still stands out. On the 17th hole of the final round, he stuffed a 5-iron within 10 feet of the back-left pin location. He drained the birdie putt and then made a curling par putt on 18 to finish a tournament-record 12 strokes below par.
He then waited nervously on the practice range as the final groups behind him struggled with the closing stretch, giving Power a one-stroke victory.
“My shot on 17 was one of the best shots I hit in my life,” he said. “I ended up rolling that putt and without that shot I would’ve had no chance. It’s something I’ve leaned on later last year and this year in the pressure situations knowing that I hit such a good shot in that circumstance.”