“To be honest, I was quite close to jacking it in,” admitted Stewart of his mindset after chiselling away on third-tier tours over the past six or so years without any success before receiving a massive boost as he beat former Amateur champion Garrick Porteous in a play-off to win an event on the Mediterranean Tour in Egypt last week.
“I’d seen various different coaches over the past few years and nothing really seemed to be working,” he added. “I just felt I was hitting my head against a brick wall. I was getting frustrated as I wasn’t getting any better. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and admit, ‘maybe I’m just not good enough’.”
Stewart and David Law, the European Tour’s newest winner after his Vic Open victory last weekend, were both standouts as they came through the amateur ranks at the same time. Stewart won the Scottish Boys in 2008 before adding the Scottish Amateur two years later.
The Troon Welbeck player turned pro after being part of a winning Walker Cup team at Royal Aberdeen in 2011 and was signed up by ISM, joining the likes of Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Louis Oosthuizen in Andrew “Chubby” Chandler’s stable of players.
It is thanks to McCloskey, the Bothwell Castle-based PGA professional, who also now works with Law, that Stewart feels he is finally starting to make some headway in the paid ranks, though he acknowledges that he still has a long way to go before achieving his goal of playing at the highest level.
“Alan has changed little things and it’s made a massive difference to my game,” he said. “Honestly, it is scary how much he’s helped me get my ball in play a lot more. He says that everyone at this level is good at it. It’s when they are not good, that’s when the top guys are so much better. He has given me a new lease of life. I don’t think he gets as much credit as he deserves.
“For me, he’s as good a psychologist as a golf coach. Alan really is the most positive person there is and that rubs off on all the guys he works with.
“Every time I go to see him I feel as though I’m coming a way a better player. You always feel you are picking up something, even if it is something small. My ball-striking is the best it’s ever been.
“It was last-chance saloon for me, to be honest. I was knocking my head against a door for such a long time. If you are not even competing on a third-tier tour, how do you expect to compete at a higher level.
“Alan has got me to a place where I believe I can compete at a decent level and I was delighted to get a win, my first one on a recognised tour. I’ve not been in that position too often in recent times, so to hit the shots I did over the last few holes and also play how I did in the play-off was very satisfying. It was good to go head-to-head with Garrick, an established Challenge Tour player, and come out on top.”
In addition to the unwavering support he’s received from his family, Stewart has been loyally backed over the past few years by John Morton, a retired businessman from Troon. “Without their help, I’d be working, not playing golf, by now,” he admitted. “I’m 28 and I didn’t want to be knocking around the EuroPro Tour as a 30-year-old.
“Alan and I have talked through some goal-setting. I want to effectively have Challenge Tour status by the end of this year. In the grand scheme of things, I still have plenty of time to get where I want to in the game.
“But it’s not fun having people supporting you when you are playing third-tier all the time. It’s time for me to be playing good golf and hopefully I can push on from here. In my first three events since I really started working with Alan, I’ve finished third-first-third. That’s a pretty good start, I’d say, so I’m in a good place right now.”