From Brian Keogh at Torrey Pines
Miracle man Chris Devlin wants to complete a Cinderella style fairytale by having a ball at the US Open and a few beers with pal Boo Weekley.
The Alabama-based Ulsterman, 33, has been given a new lease of life after going under the knife for a nightmare glandular illness in 2006
And after battling his way through two qualifying stages to earn his place alongside superstars Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington at Torrey Pines, the Ballymena-bon journeyman is determined to make the cut, celebrate with his old mini tour drinking buddy and join him on tour next year.
Before heading out for a practice round with Harrington, Devlin revealed that he has a lot in common with country bumpkin character Weekley after sharing tough times together on mini tours in the deep south.
Weekley was one of the first to congratulate him when he arrived in the locker room on Monday and the pair have already made plans to down a few beers.
Devlin said: “Boo’s a good friend and a great guy - the most down to earth person you would want to meet.
“We played a lot of times just growing up. Being where I am from and being where he is from, we are very much the same as such.
“We are both country boys you could say. We have always hit it off, going back to the days when we were on the Hooters Tour.”
But while Devlin’s career was shattered by a mystery illness that eventually required major surgery to cure, world No 27 Weekley has since won twice on the PGA Tour and moved into contention for a Ryder Cup place
Now Devlin is hoping that he can follow in Weekley’s footsteps and earn his place on the megabucks PGA Tour through the Q-School later this year.
And if he achieves his goal of making the cut on his PGA Tour debut this week, he will be exempt from the first gruelling stage of the qualifying test.
Considering his harrowing medical history, that should be a walk in the park for Devlin, who is battling to make his living on the third tier Hooters Tour.
Recalling his medical nightmare, Devlin said: “You have what is called a thymus gland in your chest. As you get older it disintegrates but strangely enough, mine got larger and larger.
“I didn’t feel any effects until I got out of college and I knew I wasn’t hitting the ball the way I knew I could. And I wasn’t playing as well as I knew I could.
“I was feeling very fatigued playing. I had it for a few years and I went to see numerous doctors and neurologists and for a while they thought I had food allergies. Other doctors thought I was allergic to bermuda grass.
“The symptoms got really bad - I had double vision, I couldn’t really talk. I couldn’t swallow my food without drinking water.
“When I would go practice, my right arm would come off the club all the time. It would go dead after I hit 12 golf balls.
“Eventually the discovered what it was and saw the mass in my chest. They went in and cut me open.
“I had open heart surgery and they removed the gland. The surgeon came in to see me the next morning and said, I don’t know how you were functioning at all. I expect you you to have at least 1000 times the energy on a golf course that you have had before.”
That was music to Devlin’s ears and he’s raring to get his career back on track by joining Weekley and former Alabama university pal Graeme McDowell on golf’s main tours.
He said: “If I can be there at the end of the week and make a reasonable cheque, I will be happy with that.
“It is a great experience to be out here. I am just going to try not to get in my way as much as I can.
“It has been a long road but I always knew I was good enough to be here. It has just been long overdue.
“I certainly feel that I deserve to be here. I have worked very, very hard and I have always believed in my ability. I believe this is where I deserve to be and where I should be.
“I have enough ability to be out here competing with all these guys. It has been a long time coming but if you work hard enough it will definitely come to you, there is not doubt about it.”