Callum McNeill under Hal Sutton's wing as he chases PGA Tour card
Callum McNeill, who hopes to join Martin Laird and Russell Knox in living the American golfing dream, is being coached and mentored by former US Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton.
The 28-year-old, who was born in Edinburgh and lives in the Borders, is teeing up in the Lake Charles Championship, this week’s Korn Ferry Tour event, in Louisiana after winning a Monday qualifier.
McNeill holds conditional status for the PGA Tour’s feeder circuit after reaching the final stage of Q-School last year and is aiming to use the $750,000 event to ignite his 2022 campaign.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity this week,” McNeill, who grew up in Lauder before moving to Hawick, told The Scotsman. “I’m trying to downplay it a bit and have no expectations.
“Ultimately, though, if I make the cut, I should do enough to move up in the first reshuffle of the season and get into most events for the rest of the season, which has been the goal since getting to the final stage last year.”
McNeill, who played with DP World Tour card holder and fellow Borderer Craig Howie when they were amateurs, has ended up in the States through caddying.
“I’ve been working between Renaissance Club in the summers and The Clubs at Houston Oaks every winter since 2013,” said the University of the Highlands and Islands graduate. “I always wanted to play at the highest level but didn’t have the belief or money to fully chase it.”
A string of encouraging performances in assistants’ events helped do something about the belief part and now Sutton, who led the US in the 2004 Ryder Cup in Detroit, is playing a part in McNeill having a proper game.
“Hal briefly worked at the club I worked at in Houston and we got on really well,” said McNeill, who won the Monday shoot-out with a bogey-free eight-under 64 at OakWing Golf Club.
“I went to visit him in February last year and he offered to take me under his wing and coach and mentor me, as well as getting access to his academy in Houston. Up until this point, I had been working 25-30 hours a week to earn money to live and practising and playing as much as possible around that
“Hal and his director of instruction said if I wanted to go for it, it had to be a full-time job. They helped me come up with a contract to find investment, so I went to a couple of members at Houston Oaks who had helped me before and pitched myself to them.
“They loved it and helped me set up a town hall style meeting where there were 20/30 guys that I pitched myself to. Coupled with backing from Houston-based IT company Dyopath and Glasgow-based DR Whisky, I raised enough money to play full time and pay myself a wage for at least two years.”
Due partly to the Covid pandemic, McNeill, who is close friends with fellow Houston-based Scot James Ross, hasn’t been home since October 2019, meaning his new bride, Mallory, has still to meet his parents.
“I feel so lucky to have the opportunity, but it makes me hungrier than ever,” he said of trying to eventually join Laird and Knox as a PGA Tour card holder.
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