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Reeve Whitson aiming to make cut as a pro

By Peter Hutcheon

There is no room for sentiment in professional sport, as Reeve Whitson is finding out.

The 22-year-old plays his fourth event since turning pro at the Northern Ireland Open Challenge at Galgorm Castle tomorrow.

And already the difference between the amateur game he is used to and the cut-throat nature of the professional world is apparent.

"It is so different," he said.

"You turn up to play and no-one cares who you are, or how you are playing or what your results are.

"It's just business and you just get on with it like everybody else."

The pressure is on everyone to perform as soon as they head to the pro ranks, and for Whitson it's no different.

Turning pro after this year's North of Ireland amateur Open was always the gameplan after he approached the Challenge Tour whilst playing in this event last year.

He has six events to play his way onto the Tour full-time next season and with three behind him so far, he has yet to make a cut.

But he's not remotely concerned.

"Yes it's about results and the pressure in on to perform right from the start," he said.

"But I know I am playing better than the results have shown in those events and I just have to trust my game and know that it will come good in the end. I feel like it'll all come together."

Whatever happens, Whitson, who is currently playing out of Royal County Down, will head to Qualifying School at the end of the season and aim to gain his full European Tour card from there.

It's a huge mountain to climb at the first time of asking, but these are the paths that must be taken for anyone aiming to make a competitive living.

And in the meantime Whitson is aiming to make the most of playing in front of a large home crowd and enjoying what will hopefully be four rounds this week.

"I really like Galgorm and I like the set-up," he said.

"I think they have struggled to get the rough up to the length that they wanted to because of the cold weather and it won't be as bad as it was last year.

"So it won't play as tough as it could, but then, they can always tuck the pins away."

His fellow professionals may be business-like, but tournament ambassador Michael Hoey found time to play a practice round with Whitson at Galgorm last week.

"I hadn't met him before. He was a really nice guy and he gave me lots of advice. It was really enjoyable."

Life on the Challenge Tour has already turned out to be something of a surprise for Whitson, winner of the Spanish amateur title at La Manga last summer.

"Already I've noticed playing in these three Challenge Tour events that sometimes there's only one person out on the course watching you, but this is going to be very different to that," he said.

"Playing Galgorm last year as an amateur, I just assumed it was going to be like that at all the events, but it's not, it's just very different here."

Ultimately anyone turning professional wants to make it on the European Tour and the PGA Tour, but it's a long road ahead.

And that's not lost on Whitson, noting that Hoey has already pointed out this week that the standard on the Challenge Tour these days is a great deal better than when he was a regular.

"You can tell that the standard at the top of the Challenge Tour is really tough," he said. "These guys could go out there and win on the European Tour easily.

"It's just a matter of getting a break and getting onto the main tour, and that's what everyone is trying to do, but I'm really enjoying it, even playing in the Pro-Am events, it's all very different but very enjoyable."

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