Gordon Sherry has given the thumbs up to Sam Locke, the Open Championship Silver Medal winner, turning professional and wishes he’d had someone like Paul Lawrie as his mentor when making the same career decision more than 20 years ago.
Though pipped by Englishman Steve Webster in the battle to finish as leading amateur in the Claret Jug event at St Andrews in 1995, Sherry was the player in 19-year-old Locke’s shoes in Scottish golf at that time.
He’d won the Amateur Championship earlier in the year at Royal Liverpool, finished fourth in the Scottish Open at Carnoustie the week before The Open and made a hole-in-one in a practice round with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson on the Old Course.
Sherry waited until after playing in The Masters the next year before he turned professional and, though things didn’t work out quite as he’d hoped, the giant Ayrshireman believes having Lawrie as his mentor will give Locke a better chance of enjoying a prolonged career in the paid ranks.
“Listen, while things are going well for him, it’s a no-brainer,” he said of the Stonehaven player deciding to call time on his amateur career the day after he was presented with his Silver Medal at Carnoustie. “You turn pro and get some experience as soon as you can. And the brilliant news for him is that he is under the wing of an Open champion in Paul Lawrie, I mean that is invaluable. A lot of guys don’t get that chance, so he has a huge advantage straight away. I mean having Paul Lawrie as your mentor is just phenomenal at that age. Listen, my parents were brilliant when I turned pro, but they didn’t have a business head. There was also so much emotional attachment that there was only so much they could do.
“Of course, I had Bob Torrance, but he was my coach and, again, we were too emotionally involved for him to give me the great advice I needed and that’s certainly not a criticism. There was no Paul Lawrie to help me. I’m really lucky that I now have a lot of great people around me as I try to build a business, The Links Club. If I’d had that sort of structure when I turned pro, it would have been phenomenal.”
Sherry, who made a name for himself in the amateur ranks at the same time as he was doing a biochemistry degree at Stirling University, was unable to secure a Tour card during his stint in the paid ranks and now only plays golf for fun.
“Every year The Open is on you have memories and nothing but good memories,” he admitted. “Look, I’m in a different position now. I’m 44- years-old. I’m a little wiser than I was back then. I’m older and I’m more experienced.
“People are constantly asking me, ‘what do you wish you’d done differently and what did you do wrong’. It is all hindsight. You want to get a mentor and someone who can be quite brutal with you when that is required. And Paul Lawrie hinted on the Sunday when he was in the Sky Sports studio that he’d be talking to Sam about his demeanour as he looked a bit down in the last round at Carnoustie.
“Listen, he was trying his best and didn’t want to have a bad score but he’s 19 and playing in The Open, that’s just brilliant. If truth be told, I’d never heard of Sam before Carnoustie. You get so engrossed in your own stuff that it’s easy to lose touch. But he’s obviously a great golfer and it’s great to hear that he is part of the Paul Lawrie Foundation, which does a lot of great work in the north-east.”
Reflecting on his own switch, Sherry added: “I think I was really lucky. Without any disrespect to Sam Locke or anyone else, my profile was pretty high. There was no doubt that the golf I’d played in amateur events as well as the Scottish Open and The Open had boosted my profile. I was really lucky to have good sponsorship and got invitations to great events.
“Interestingly, I had some email conversation with my good friend, Sandy Lyle, the Monday after The Open and I was saying to him, ‘I still have a great life. I’ve got five kids, I’m still playing golf at some great places’. Not on Tour admittedly, but I wouldn’t have that life if that was the case. There are other things in life other than golf, but you don’t think like that when you are 21.”
l Gordon Sherry is an ambassador for Next Step Foundation, which exists to help athletes prepare for life after their careers. For more information visit nextstepfoundation.co.uk