Seamus Power has had his sceptics but the West Waterford man is adamant he never doubted himself for an instant as ten years of toil paid off with a life-changing victory after a drama-filled six-hole playoff for the Barbasol Championship in Kentucky.
The 34-year-old stood over a nine-iron to the 72nd green at Keene Trace Golf Club outside Lexington with his caddie Simon Keelan praying silently he could squeeze out one more birdie and possibly clinch a career-best runner-up finish that would leave him with one hand on his PGA Tour card.
He fearlessly rifled it to two-feet and made the putt and minutes later it was sudden-death as JT Poston, four clear of him as he headed into the back nine, suffered a mini collapse.
It took over an hour and a half to decide the outcome of an extraordinary playoff battle but Power proved the man of the hour, crediting his performance to Dr Bob Rotella, whose counsel he sought last winter.
In a game where the twin imposters of success and failure keep Pádraig Harrington on his toes at nearly 50, Power has used his near misses as learning experiences in a game where those who are not racking up
Waterford’s finest enjoys Power and glory with Tour winresults of Major championship proportions, such as those of his former amateur team mates Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, can somehow be considered to be underachieving.
“My thought process always with golf is that if at any point I didn’t think I was good enough to win or compete at the highest level, I would have stopped playing,” the Tooraneena man said on Sunday night when asked if he’d ever had doubts.
“I would have done something else. If you don’t have that way deep down, you can say whatever you want, but only you are going to know these things when you look in the mirror, and I’ve never lost that. I felt like I’ve always been able to win on every level I’ve been on and obviously not yet on the PGA Tour. So I felt like I could and that belief definitely never left me. Thankfully, I was able to come through today.”
Power’s journey has taken longer that those of McIlroy or Lowry, but he’s very much a peer, especially now he’s got a two-year PGA Tour exemption until the end of the 2022-23 season as well as starts in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, The Players Championship and the PGA Championship next year.
He’s up to 113th in the world from 505th just over 12 months ago and has jumped from 123rd to 69th in the FedEx Cup standings, guaranteeing him a spot in the first Playoff event, the Northern Trust, and putting him in with a chance of making the Top 70 who contest the second event, the BMW Championship.
That he’s taking the next three weeks off and planning a trip home to his beloved West Waterford Golf Club before the Playoffs begin is no surprise. After all, he’s an incredible 82-under par for his last six events — average score 67.91 — clocking up three top-10s and two top-20s before hitting the jackpot. He won $630,000 to take his season’s earnings to $1,484,029 and his career tally to $4,046,272 — before his gargantuan expenses that include travel, agent, caddie, coaches, physios, psychologists and the taxman.
“Without West Waterford Golf Club, I definitely wouldn’t be here,” Power said, keenly aware that the club is desperate to take control of its affairs when the receiver puts it up for sale in an online auction on July 29. “I started down there when I was 12, 13 years old. And all of the Spratt family, it was pretty much like my second family, they’re incredible.”
He played clutch shot after clutch shot in sudden-death— the chip in for birdie at the first extra hole that still wasn’t enough, the recoveries from sand and rough at the second and third extra holes followed by the metronomic play that forced Poston to blink first, leading to his water-bound tee-shot at the sixth extra hole.
Having won his PGA Tour card via the second tier Korn Ferry Tour at the end of 2016, Power lost his full playing privileges at the end of 2019 and was playing out of the tenuous 126-150 category for those who fail to make the top 125 in the FedEx Points list.
It meant not knowing exactly when he was going to play, leaving him starts in only the minor events as he added to his schedule by twice coming through Monday qualifiers this year.
“Yeah, it’s going to be fantastic,” he said of the a la carte schedule that awaits him. “This 2021, so ‘19, ‘20, ‘21 I was in the not fully exempt category and it’s tough, it’s frustrating. You want to play, you want to play more, you’re looking at guys playing in tournaments passing you and you’re looking at your FedEx number dropping and dropping and dropping.”
He had been playing brilliantly since recovering from elbow surgery late last season but did not get a chance to show it until April, by which stage he was 210th in the