Andy Sullivan belongs to a select group of former Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup players to have won on the European Tour.
Victory in the Joburg Open earned him his second European Tour win this season. It came just seven weeks after his maiden win in the South African Open.
Sullivan played in the 2011 Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen. He won two out of four matches to help GB&I win in the horrific conditions which swept across the links that year.
The 28-year-old has made a seamless transition to the professional ranks. Not many have.
Sullivan is one of two players from that 10-man team who currently hold a full European Tour card. Tom Lewis is the other. Lewis beat Sullivan to the winner’s circle, winning the 2011 Portugal Masters.
Those who make this year’s GB&I team could be forgiven for thinking they’ll follow Sullivan and Lewis to fame and fortune on the European Tour.
The truth is not many will succeed out of the 10 who face the United States at Royal Lytham & St Anne’s in September.
Sullivan is the 22nd player out of 85 GB&I Walker Cuppers since 1995 to have won on the European Tour. He’s just one of 14 out of that number currently holding a European Tour card.
I count 104 wins from those 22 winners. Among that total are nine major championships.
Padraig Harrington, who made his third consecutive Walker Cup appearance in 1995, leads the way in wins with 14, including three majors. Rory McIlroy, a member of the 2007 Walker Cup team, leads the major race with four.
Graeme McDowell (2001) and Justin Rose (1997) are the other major winners, respective winners of the 2010 and 2013 U.S. Opens.
Yet for every Harrington, McIlroy, McDowell and Rose, there are many who haven’t even spent time on the European Tour let alone contend for major championships or regular European Tour events.
Some great GB&I players have failed spectacularly at the pro level. Gordon Sherry was the star of the 1995 team and never made it in the pro ranks. David Inglis was college No. 1 when he played in the 2003 match but couldn’t make the transition from the amateur game. Jamie Moul played in 2007 having been the world’s No. 1 amateur. Moul is stilling trying to find a way on to the European Tour.
“As good as amateur golf is, it’s a big step up to this level,” Sullivan said. “The standard is high in the amateur game but there are so many more talented players in the professional game. Not everyone who stars in the amateur game is going to make it out here.”
Those lucky enough to make this year’s GB&I team shouldn’t take it for granted success will follow in pro golf.