West Waterford’s Seamus Power is all set for a big reunion with Rory McIlroy following Sunday night’s breakthrough victory on the Web.com Tour in Indiana.
The pair could have been team mates at East Tennessee State University a decade ago but McIlroy opted to play full time as an amateur and turn professional at 18 instead of taking up the offer to join his former amateur rival in collegiate golf.
The Holywood star has gone on to win four majors and become world No 1 but while Power, 29, has toiled on mini tours he’s now on the verge of gradation to the megabucks PGA Tour after his one-shot win in the United Leasing & Finance Championship put him within touching distance of his dream.
"It's huge," Power said after a cheque for $108,000 catapulted him to seventh in the money list with $131,733, just $30,000 short of the total it took to secure a PGA Tour card last year.
"It shows you are going in the right direction and the work is paying off. In terms of the money list and that sort of thing, it's a huge step for me. Right now I am very excited.”
Power birdied the 17th from 15 feet and then drained another 15 footer for par at the 18th for a bogey free 67 that set a 12 under target that none of his rivals could match.
“When I finished I didn’t think it was going to win, but I saw some of the guys dropping shots and just hoped for the best,” he said at Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh. “It obviously worked out.”
McIlroy was one of the first to send his congratulations, tweeting: “Awesome win @Power4Seamus!! Keep up the great work.”
But even if the Holywood star is not in a position to offer Power an invitation to the Dubai Duty Free irish Open at The K Club in a fortnight, both men know that it’s only a matter of time before they rub shoulders on the PGA Tour.
With the top 25 money winners on the Web.com Tour guaranteed automatic promotion to the PGA Tour card for next season, Power knows he’s on his way if he keeps his foot on the accelerator.
Power is very much in the driving seat of his career but he opted not to drive eight hours home to Charlotte on Sunday or try to make his 1.30pm Monday qualifier tee time for this week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, where McIlroy is going for his third win since 2010.
“It’s too far to drive tonight,” Power said of the 500-plus mile trip. “I’ll wait for another day.”
That day could come soon as Power is now odds on to win promotion to join McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell in the big time next season.
“There are 21 tournaments and 25 cards so just looking at past results, there are very few guys who get a card without winning,” Power said
"So to that, the win is huge, especially this early in the year. Maybe I can try and get another win and be one away from automatic promotion (for three wins). It's huge and it gives me a lot of confidence going forward."
At 29, Power might appear to be a slow burner but while he admits to suffering some frustration along the way, he’s confident he’ll get his chance to be reunited with McIlroy soon, even if he doesn’t get an Irish Open invitation.
“All those Walker Cup guys turning pro deserve a spot,” Power said of The K Club event. “If I get in, absolutely fantastic, I’d love to play. But if I don’t, I’ve got plenty to aim for out here.
"I haven't been talking to Rory for a couple of years but we played some golf growing up, which was nice.
“It was always impressive to watch him play. He has done incredible things for golf in Ireland.
"I have a lot ways to go to get anywhere near that but I am closer to playing tournaments with him again than I was this time last week. So that's nice. It would be much cooler for me than it would be for him. It would be an exciting moment.”
If Sunday's win was a proud moment for West Waterford and ETSU's legendary coach, Fred Warren, it was also a happy one for Power's coaches.
Charlotte area PGA coach Ken Guilford was the first to make a difference at the end of 2013 but Power has also sought Trackman help from Todd Anderson, who works the likes of Billy Horschel and Brandt Snedeker, to work out where some rogue shots were coming from.
"I've been trying to get everything better and ball-striking towards the end of last year wasn't where I wanted it," Power said. "I needed to work on that. I have been trying to get my putting better, wedges better."
At 29, he might appear to have had huge patience but he admits it's been tough to watch a stream of young guns come out of college and make it straight to the tour, even if their names are Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas or Smylie Kaufman, the winner of last year's United Leasing & Finance Championship
“The average age for a PGA Tour rookie is up at around 30 years old so those guys are the exception for sure, special talents,” he said of the 20-somethings.
“Even still, you want to be out there, especially when the guys are so much younger that you. But I am an awful lot closer to the PGA Tour today than I was a week ago.”