Argos stint helps Jack McDonald catalogue winning formula on Tartan Pro Tour
After all, he’d freshly landed his second £4,000 pay-day in the space of a fortnight through a brace of impressive wins on Paul Lawrie’s Tartan Pro Tour at Blairgowrie and Royal Dornoch.
The Argos uniform he was wearing, though, would have been an indication that he was actually working there and not scanning the catalogues for himself or anyone else.
“I’ve done it since last November - the week after the PGA EuroPro Tour Grand Final at Slaley Hall, in fact - and I’ve really enjoyed it, to be honest,” McDonald told The Scotsman at the end of his shift.
That had started at 8am, meaning he only grabbed a few hours sleep following a four-and-a-half journey down from Sutherland to his native Ayrshire on Tuesday after a late finish in the Royal Dornoch Masters.
Carding rounds of 66 and 65 for a nine-under total, the 29-year-old claimed a one-shot victory over Kieran Cantley, having already won the season-opening Blairgowrie Perthshire Masters in a play-off two weeks earlier.
McDonald will be giving up that job in Argos in a few weeks’ time as the EuroPro Tour starts its new season and the Challenge Tour also cranks up, but it’s been helpful to him and not just in terms of paying bills over the winter.
“It’s been good to do something else other than just playing golf,” he said. “It has taught me how to manage my time better because you have to go and practice around your work. It’s given me structure to my days, which I feel has helped me a lot.
“Eight hours, for example, is a long time in a day to fill in when you are not working and, when I have been practising, I feel as if it has always been productive and I think that side of it has been an eye-opener.”
McDonald looked a star in the making in his journey through the amateur ranks, winning the Scottish Boys’ Stroke-Play Championship at Ladybank in 2009, helping Stirling University land numerous titles and playing in Great Britain & Ireland’s win the 2015 Walker Cup at Royal Lytham against a US side that included Bryson DeChambeau.
But, while he’s watched former Scotland team-mates like Bob MacIntyre, Grant Forrest, Ewen Ferguson and Connor Syme all become DP World Tour players, the process of climbing the pro ladder has been a slower one for McDonald, who is mentored by Dean Robertson.
“Ach, yes and no,” he replied to being asked if his journey so far since turning professional had been a frustrating one. “It’s just golf, I think, and, in this game especially, I feel it’s easy to sometimes to knock yourself down quite a lot.
“Through maturing, I’ve found that if you try and force something too much it can hinder you rather than actually helping you. So being able to learn from different experiences over the years has definitely been helpful and just trying to enjoy it is what I kind of took from it.
“Obviously the guys - Bob, Grant, Connor and Ewen - have all been doing amazing and that’s great to see. But it’s also a great uplift for me as well as I competed with them all the way through my amateur career.
“It definitely gives me a lift seeing them at the pinnacle of the game at the moment and that’s where I’m striving to be. I still want to compete at the highest level and I wouldn’t play if I didn’t think that was a possibility.
“My results recently and how I’ve been playing has been great for me as it has shown that I am doing things properly and I am doing them well.”
Next up for McDonald, who came up just short in joining compatriot Calum Fyfe in graduating to the Challenge Tour this season from the third-tier EuroPro Tour, is a home date at Kilmarnock (Barassie) on the Tartan Pro Tour then another 36-hole on that circuit almost straight afterwards at Dundonald Links.
The player topping the Order of Merit at that point will secure a spot in the Farmfoods Scottish Challenge, which is being held at Newmachar in the middle of next month, with McDonald currently on course to tee up the exciting opportunity.
“That’s a good goal over the next couple of weeks,” he admitted. “Though I have a category for the Challenge Tour, I will be playing it by ear if and when invites come up, but that one would be great obviously as I’ve had success at Newmachar, winning on the EuroPro there back in 2019.”
Like lots of other home-based Scottish pros, McDonald will always be grateful to Lawrie for setting up the Tartan Pro Tour at a time when the EuroPro Tour wasn’t in operation due to the Covid pandemic.
Due to that, the DP World Tour Qualifying School hasn’t taken place for the past two years, but it is now returning later this year, re-opening the main route for players like McDonald in their bid to reach the promised land in European golf.
“It’s massive,” he said of that welcome announcement last week. “It’s now not just one bite at the cherry like on the EuroPro Tour, Challenge Tour or wherever it may be. It gives you that opportunity to go out and have a few good weeks and that can just change everything for you.
“Because it’s at the end of the year as well, you can just hit a vein of form at the right time and that’s you. You kind of fastrack everything, so it’s a huge lift for everyone to know that later in the year you have a chance to improve your status in the professional game.”
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