Lewis finds himself living an improbable dream
SHANGHAI - Less than two months ago, Tom Lewis was helping his Great Britain & Ireland teammates upset the Americans in the biennual Walker Cup matches at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
Lewis, 20, turned pro five days after the victory. One month to the day later, entering the final round four shots back in the Portugal Masters, the Englishman shot a final-round 65 for his first professional victory.
Fast forward three weeks, and Lewis finds himself in Shanghai for his first World Golf Championship.
“I was worried about Tour School, and I didn't really fancy going there," said Lewis, marveling at his speedy ascent as a pro. "To actually be standing here and in China with the best players in the world is something I wouldn't have thought; did not even come across my head.”
Unlike many who turn pro at a young age, Lewis already had some success in professional golf. He never missed the cut as an amateur in pro events, and he shared the first-round lead in this year's Open Championship before finishing 30th, the low amateur.
Pete Cowen, who has worked with Lewis for the past four years - since Bryan Lewis, a golf professional, believed he had taught his son all that he could - said his pupil "always wants to improve.”
"It's always going to be, the painting is half-finished," Cowen said. "It's not finished. It's always going to be like that. We might get to three quarters, but it will always be a situation where the painting is ongoing.”
Lewis shares a hometown - Welwyn Garden City, in north London - and a work ethic with Nick Faldo.
“I guess the way I've been brought up is great,” Lewis said. “I just worked hard throughout my life, and when I play well, I just get my head down and play well. “
Lewis has had help. Cowen helped secure a sponsor exemption into Dubai last year. Lewis made the cut, but the real payout was that he found caddie Colin Byrne.
Byrne was looping for Italian Edoardo Molinari, but after the 2005 U.S. Amateur champion missed the cut, Byrne was offered Lewis' bag.
Eventually Byrne and Molinari would split after the U.S. Open and Byrne would return home to work on his house. When he received the call from Lewis, he came back out on tour.
“I know Colin needed some time out for home things,” Lewis said. “He wanted to get his house and he's had a new wife, so when he wanted to come back, it was perfect timing, and I'm really pleased I won. It makes it easier to keep Colin for as long as I can, really. “
Young, no fear, an early victory, a good support system, an experienced caddie and a legendary coach. Lewis has all the pieces in place for a successful career.
“He's got great pedigree,” Cowen said. “We need youngsters coming forward and just showing us what talent they have got, and as long as they are nice kids with it, that's great. That's what we want in this sport."
Lewis, whose game was built for the aerial strategy on the PGA Tour, intends to make appearances in the U.S. Yet, he has no illusions about jumping to the PGA Tour in the short term.
“I've been told by my caddie, the U.S. suits me,” Lewis said. “It probably does suit me - the bigger fairways, big, long courses and bigger greens - and that's probably sort of my type of game. But you know, you still have to play well. They are good players out there, and my life is obviously at home in England, and it's going to be difficult for me to think about ever moving out to America or playing out there for a long period of time, because I love home and I enjoy going home.”
A trip down Magnolia Lane for the Masters tops Lewis' wish list, but his immediate thoughts are on Asia: this week in China, next week in Singapore and then Malaysia, all in hopes of a spot in the Dubai World Championship next month.
“It would be really nice to go there,” Lewis said of the European Tour's season-ender. “And to even think about that from what I thought about earlier - three weeks ago, where it was Tour School - my expectations have obviously risen, and it's going to be a tough time to control the emotions, but at the same time still have opportunity and need to try and take it if I can.”