Martin Dempster: Connor Syme is Scotland's best prospect in last decade

Talk about good timing. A triple whammy of Rolex Series events, after all, have now become a distinct possibility for Connor Syme over the next few weeks, just as it was starting to look as though the young '¨Scot would be missing out on those big-money affairs on the European Tour.

Connor Syme earned close to £100,000 with an impressive second-place finish at the Shot Clock Masters at Diamond Country Club in Atzenbrugg, Austria.  Picture: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Connor Syme earned close to £100,000 with an impressive second-place finish at the Shot Clock Masters at Diamond Country Club in Atzenbrugg, Austria. Picture: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

“It’s brilliant for me, and with the re-rank coming up it could really change my season for sure,” said Syme in realising straight away how important his best effort so far on the circuit, finishing second in the inaugural Shot Clock Masters in Austria on Sunday, could prove in his rookie season on that circuit.

That re-rank is for players who earned a Category 17 card through the Qualifying School at the end of last year, when the 22-year-old emerged 11th in the pecking order but had since slipped to 19th following the first re-assessment of 2018 performances in April.

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The cards will be shuffled again on 25 June, the day after the conclusion of the BMW International Open in Germany, and Syme is set to be near the top of the deck after holing a monster birdie putt – it was officially measured at 69 feet – on the final green to earn a pay-day worth close to £100,000 at Diamond Country Club, near Vienna.

Unofficially, he’s on course to jump to seventh spot, which would significantly increase his hopes of getting into the fields for the biggest single chunk of the season by far on the European Tour as a total of 
$21 million goes up for grabs in a three-week run taking in the French, Irish and Scottish Opens.

Due to the strength of those line-ups, it’s not certain by any means that the Drumoig player will be teeing it up at Le Golf National, Ballyliffin and Gullane, but he’s at least 
given himself a chance and Syme certainly deserves a massive pat on the back for that alone. Make no mistake, it’s not been nearly as easy as some people seemed to expect for him to find his feet at his new workplace, as was evidenced by the fact he’d made just three cuts in his previous 11 events before Austria, but his attitude has been brilliant and that has paid dividends.

“Connor is the model professional,” said Mark McDonnell, a co-director of Syme’s management company, Modest Golf!, with One Direction band member Niall Horan. “His work ethic and attitude has been second to none. Even when results have not quite gone his way the last few weeks, he has still kept working hard and trusted that results will turn around.”

In one fell swoop, he jumped from outside the top 200 to 101st in the Race to Dubai with 164,366 points, leaving only Stephen Gallacher ahead of him among the Scottish contingent. The top 110 hang on to cards and last season the player in that final spot – Englishman Ashley Chesters – ended up with 363,113 points, showing that Syme still has lots of hard work ahead of him in the second half of the campaign.

As he’d already displayed when finishing joint-12th on his professional debut in the Portugal Masters and quickly backing that up by sharing 15th spot on home soil in the Dunhill Links Championship, though, he’s got the game to get himself in the mix on the European Tour and, boy, did he enjoy that finish on Sunday.

Rightly so and there’s a great chance we’ll be seeing that engaging smile light up TV screens a fair bit in the future because, as someone who has known Syme through his dad and coach, Stuart, for a long time noted, you get the feeling that the 
journey is only just beginning for arguably the brightest hope to emerge in Scottish golf over the past decade.