The traditional ending to the headline is obviously “wait,” but the words work hard, persevere and keep believing apply too.
That’s certainly the case for fellow Woburn Golf Club member and close friend Steve Lewton. I know, I’ve followed every step of Steve’s career from his semi-final appearance in the 2001 Boys Amateur at Ganton Golf Club to his outstanding finish in last week’s Saudi International on the Asian Tour.
Not many would have backed Steve to finish in the top four in the Saudi tournament, not amid a stellar field featuring many of golf’s top stars.
The Official World Golf Ranking gave the Saudi tournament a strength of field rating of 345 against 181 for the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and just 75 for the Ras al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour. To put that in more perspective, only nine tournaments on last year’s European Tour schedule had a strength of field rating higher than last week’s Asian Tour event – and seven of those were either majors or world golf championships.
Yet there was Steve sitting at T4 amid that all-star cast along with Australia’s Cameron Smith, the world number 11. Only four shots and Spain’s Adri Arnaus, former Masters winner Bubba Watson, and winner Harold Varner III stood between Steve and a £1 million first place prize.
Steve was world number 524 when he began last week. Behind him on the leaderboard were such luminaries as Matthew Wolff, Dustin Johnson, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, Xander Schauffele, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters, Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau (who only lasted one round) and fellow Woburn Golf Club member Ian Poulter. Woburn’s number one player finished 12 shots behind Steve.
Of course, many of the above earned lucrative appearance fees. An estimated $15-20 million was spent on luring the stars. Steve didn’t get a penny of that; not for him a free private jet into Jeddah. However, he walked off with $217,500 to move to the top of the Asian Tour Order of Merit, and jump 224 places to world number 300.
Those of us lucky enough to be Woburn Golf Club members know just how talented Steve is. We’ve been waiting for a moment such as this for a while, but we knew it would come. After all, this is a player who won twice while attending NC State University, including beating former world number one Dustin Johnson down the stretch for one of those victories.
Steve was an England International at boys and senior level who won the Avondale Medal and New South Wales Amateur Championships in Australia. He finished second to Rory McIlroy in the 2006 European Amateur and was on the same 2007 Walker Cup squad as the four-time major winner.
He held a full European Tour card for the 2011 season before moving to the Asian Tour where he won the 2014 Taiwan Masters (above). He also won the 2017 Philippine Open. He’s spent the last two seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour but just missed out on his card and returned to the Asian circuit.
It hasn’t been an easy ride, that’s for sure. His journey wasn’t helped when dad Mike died of bowel cancer in 2014. Mike’s passing aged just 67 had a big impact on Steve’s life and career. He and his father were extremely close.
In previous years, Steve’s Saudi finish would have got him into the next European Tour event. However, the European Tour and the Asian Tour are no longer best buddies given silly the power struggle currently going in world golf. (Seriously, why can’t everyone just sit down and talk to one another and do what’s best for the global game instead of acting like children fighting over the last piece of chocolate cake?)
Steve obviously won’t concern himself with the argy bargy between the tours; he’s just happy about the significant investment being pumped into the Asian Tour. As are the majority of Asian Tour players who have had a much tougher time than other tour pros the last two years because of Covid-19. All they want are tournaments to play in.
It's been a long time coming for Steve. He’s certainly been around the block, but he never gave up, never stopped believing, and he’s still the same personable individual I met all those years ago at Ganton when he lost by one hole in the semi-finals to eventual winner and clear favourite Pablo Martin.
I’ve had the privilege of playing with Steve many times over the years. Indeed, I watched him shoot the easiest of 65s around the Marquess course in a bounce game just last month, a 65 that could easily have been a 61 or 62. A few days later he ripped the Dukes course apart with a 10-under 62.
Some of us at Woburn knew his game was in great shape going into the Saudi International. But T4? We honestly wouldn’t have predicted that, but we’re not surprised either. Nor would we be surprised if he builds on this performance to shoot up the world order and find his way into more big tournaments over the next few years. He’s certainly worked hard for it.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. I’m not ashamed to say I had a few wee tears in my eyes as I hit the refresh button on my computer for about the 1,000th time on Sunday and saw he’d birdied the last to finish T4. Proud as punch I was. Bet Mike was also bursting with pride somewhere up in that great clubhouse in the sky.
Just shows you should never stop believing in this crazy game of gowf.
#JustSaying: “From outside, golf looks like a homogenous world of prosperous pros living a luxurious life. That’s one of the great sport’s lies.” Thomas Boswell, Strokes of Genius
Photograph courtesy of the Asian Tour