Lewis stepping into different world as he makes pro debut at Austrian Open

tom lewis
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Success is far from guaranteed, even for an amateur as accomplished as Tom Lewis, says Carl Markham.
Carl Markham
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2011 | 6:55 p.m.

The premise might be the same, but former amateur star Tom Lewis is about to find out just how different playing for your living is this week.

Lewis, a member of Great Britain and Ireland's victorious Walker Cup team just over a week ago, surprised no one when he announced on Friday he was turning professional. That was, of course, the easy part. Now he has to make the decision pay as he sets off on a path that many venture but only a select few really prosper.

The 20-year-old from Welwyn Garden City, England, does have a decent pedigree for his professional starting point. Having won the Boys Amateur Championship aged 18, he was also the St. Andrews Links champion earlier this year.

However, he shot to fame in July when his 5-under-par 65 was the lowest round ever achieved by an amateur in the British Open, earning him a surprising share of the lead with veteran Tom Watson – after whom he was named – on the first day.

He became the first non-professional to be at the top of the leaderboard since Michael Bonallack in 1968, but in some horrendous weather his performance tailed off and he eventually finished 30th, though that was still plenty good enough for the Silver Medal as leading amateur.

But throughout that week he looked every inch the professional, from his designer label sponsored clothing to the way he conducted himself in media interviews.

The set up for this week's Austrian Open, where Lewis -- and fellow Walker Cup teammate and amateur-turned professional Paul Cutler -- debuts on the European Tour will be slightly different.

While the Diamond Country Club on the outskirts of Vienna is very nice, there will be no packed galleries full of fervent home supporters cheering him on.

For Lewis this is the start of a slog of which the first target is securing a Europea Tour card for next year.

He would do well to remember Justin Rose's chastening experience after he turned professional aged just 17 following his fourth-place Open finish at Royal Birkdale in 1998. The Englishman missed 21 cuts in a row and it was four years before Rose won a tournament.

Lewis has, at least, invested in experience by recruiting two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen's former caddie Colin Byrne. The Irishman has been a bagman on the European Tour for more years than Lewis has had on this planet and that should be a great help.

Although Byrne also has some adjusting to do.

"One of the most important factors in a player/caddie partnership is having topics of conversation and some sort of connection," he wrote in the Irish Times.

"So it will be a delicate process for us veteran cads to be on some sort of youthful wavelength but also step into the mentor and senior role even though the young men for whom we will be working are ultimately our bosses."