A few years ago Paul Cutler had little in common with Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald or Graeme McDowell.
But after helping Great Britain and Ireland to Walker Cup victory at Royal Aberdeen last weekend, the 22-year old from Portstewart has moved smoothly up the golden staircase to the paid ranks.
The young Ulsterman has joined the likes of McDowell, Ross Fisher and former amateur team mate Shane Lowry at Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management, which is run by Conor Ridge and Colin Morrissey.
And anyone who thinks these deals happen overnight has only to look at what Horizon has planned for a player who won as many points in one Walker Cup match - three and a half - as Harrington did in three.
‘All’ Cutler has to do now is turn up and play the golf .
- Sponsors invites? Check. The ruddy-faced Ulsterman will make his professional debut in next week’s Austrian Open and thanks to the letter writing skills of McDowell, he will head from there to the Home of Golf to tee it up in the $5m Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Two good weeks and he could earn the €212,000 he needs to get his European Tour card and avoid that trip to Frilford Park for PQ1 on October 4. With McDowell set to defend the Andalucía Masters at the end of next month, Cutler is almost certainly heading there too as well as to the Portugal Masters and the Barclays Singapore Open. Having a major champion as a stablemate has many benefits.
- Club deal? Check. Cutler will sign an agreement (almost certainly with TaylorMade) before the end of this week.
- Sponsor? Check. A small sponsorship deal will allow him to play without financial worry for the next year at least. The Team Ireland Golf Trust will also be giving him a grant.
- Caddie? Check. Phil “Wobbly” Morbey, who had Masters wins with Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal as well as recent stints with Ross Fisher and Thomas Bjorn, has jumped at the chance to caddie for the best Irish prospect since McIlroy and Lowry.
Needless to say, Cutler is still floating on air after his nerveless Walker Cup performance and can’t wait to take advantage of the starts his new management team has secured.
“It’s great to get such good opportunities to play straight away,” Cutler said on Tuesday. “Obviously Conor has worked hard to get me into them and I couldn’t ask for a better start than Austria next week and Dunhill Links the week after.
“I’m more excited than nervous. I just can’t wait to get started… I just have to keep doing what I can do and Conor is going to take care of the rest. He’s made me feel comfortable already. I realise I’ve got a great team here behind me. All I have to do now is concentrate on playing golf. Hopefully that’s good enough.”
Boutique Irish management companies don’t always wield such clout by Horizon have a few heavy hitters in their stable these days and it shows.
Ridge explained: “We’ve two Ryder Cup players in the stable [in McDowell and Fisher]. That’s always going to help Paul in terms of getting invitations. Three or four years ago we wouldn’t have had the power to put in place what we have for Paul. To be fair, Paul is getting the invitations because he’s a very good player and has a good profile after having such a successful Walker Cup.
“We were working hard on Dunhill anyway but I’ve no doubt Paul’s performance at the Walker Cup last weekend got it over the line. The refreshing thing about Paul is that he realises that he’s just going playing golf next week and the week after. Other guys fall into the trap of thinking it’s this big thing, that it’s bigger than it is.”
At this Cutler interjected: “It’s the same club and ball.”
Having seen his pal Lowry win the Irish Open as an amateur just two years ago, he knows that he is not that far away from the next level. He showed it in this year’s Irish Open in Killarney where he was three shots off the lead at one stage in the final round and eventually finished tied for 21st, a shot better than McDowell and two strokes ahead of Michael Hoey and Rory McIlroy.
But there are no mega-contracts being signed right now, no six-figure cheques being lodged.
“No, definitely not,” Ridge explains. “Paul is a very good amateur turning professional. With no disrespect to Paul, guys like Rory McIlroy or Sergio Garcia, who were hyped up so much as amateurs and made out to be the next Tiger or whatever, are in a different league.
“Guys like Paul will turn professional with good equipment contracts because the manufacturers know how good they are. But they are not going to risk losing their shirt over them because it’s happened before and it’s a tough market right now.
“Yet given Paul’s level in the game and given his amateur achievements and what he has ahead of him over the next while, I’m very happy with the deals we’ve done and he’s going to be financially secure enough to do things properly.
“If he gets into Singapore, he’ll fly business class to Asia and stay in a good hotel. Doing things properly also includes hiring a caddie of Wobbly’s stature. Paul’s now a professional and we will help ensure he goes about things professionally. For people to be saying he’s signing contracts in the six figure category would be way off the mark.”
With the ‘i’s’ dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed it’s time for Cutler to keep his end of the bargain. But as he said himself: “It’s the same club and ball.”