Graeme Storm on success, failure & the grind of pro golf

The Englishman on working in a cake factory, leading a major, and the 'journeyman' tag

Charlie Lemay's picture
Thu, 4 Jun 2015
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Navigating the choppy waters of professional golf is anything but plain sailing, as Graeme Storm can attest.

After 15 years as a touring pro, the 37-year-old boasts a solitary win on the European Tour, and stands 391st in the world golf rankings. 

Storm yo-yoed between a cake factory, the Challenge Tour,  and the European Tour in the early stages of his career, before peaking in 2007, winning the French Open and leading the US PGA Championship after the first round.  

The Hartlepool native told GolfMagic about the roller-coaster ride.

Going from amateur to professional is a big step. How did you find it?

I won the Amateur (Championship) in 1999 at Royal County Down and tried a few European Tour events before turning pro straight after the 2000 Masters [he missed the cut in his only visit to Augusta].

I didn’t find the transition easy. I won my European Tour card at Q School at the end of that year but missed out by 8000 euros in 2001. I made the mistake of trying to play both Tours, the European and the Challenge Tour and ended up in no-man’s land.

After dropping to the Challenge Tour, you won two events in 2004...

At the end of 2002 I got a normal job in a cake factory to save up for a couple of tournaments on the Challenge Tour and the Euro Pro Series. I lost my father during the Euro Pro qualifying tournament. That was hard to deal with but I felt I had to continue playing in the event.

In 2004, my fourth year on the Challenge Tour, I won twice.

Once you start getting a few results you start getting the belief again. Even if it’s at a low level, you feel like a bigger fish in a small pond and you feel unbeatable which is probably what Rory McIlroy feels like right now. That was me for a time in 2004. I felt like I could go out every week and I could win a Challenge Tour event. Going onto the European Tour you’re back to being a small fish in a big pond. 

In 2007, I managed to win on the European Tour and played really well in the World Golf Championship event at Doral in 2008, finishing sixth.

You led the 2007 US PGA after the opening round - what was that like?

I got no sleep that night and I was first off that morning so it was difficult to process it all. It was great at the time shooting a 65 and leading the tournament by two from John Daly, with no sign of Tiger Woods’s name.

I finished tied 62nd after falling away, but that event was my eighth in in eight weeks. I just ran out of steam, not helped by being the hottest place on the planet, which I struggled with.

If it had been the third or fourth week in a row I think I would have been alright but I was just playing on total adrenaline and I managed to have one great score and everything went my way.

Leading a major is something I can say I've done - you’d rather win one, obviously, but it’s not every time you get your name at the top of a leaderboard in a major. It was a great experience and good fun and I look back and think I managed to do it against one of the best fields in the world. 

Your career has been up and down. How do you keep going through the tough times?

Sometimes I get quite down on myself and it’s hard to stay positive. I travel a lot and it’s been a lot more difficult the last couple of years because I’ve got a young family. When you’re travelling to the Far East, Australia or South Africa, it’s a long way to go for two, three weeks at a time and not be able, if you miss the cut, to see them at the weekend.

It’s the hardest bit and it gets me down a little. But on the other hand that’s my job and I’ve got to do it. If I want to play on the European Tour I’ve got to travel to these places and get over it. I just wish I could put in some better performances than I have done this year.  

I have a good friend in Justin Rose and looking at his career, he struggled at the start and he turned out to be where he is now, so I used that when I was going through my bad spells.

You say golf is your "job"...is that what it has become to you?

Without a doubt that’s how it is. You’re earning a living and you’re the main provider in your household – you’ve got your mortgage to pay and your kids to feed and it does become more of a job in that sense, when 10 years ago it was you and your girlfriend or your wife and you have a smaller house and smaller mortgage – it’s totally different and is less pressure.

It’s not the glamorous lifestyle everyone thinks. It’s a great sport to be involved in and it’s a sport you can be very lucky at and earn a lot of money.

Was there more pressure on you in the early stages of your professional career compared to later on when you were challenging for tournaments?

I suppose there was because I was in debt in 2002 and working in the factory to make a few quid to pay that off and try to get some money to play some tournaments. I played a tournament in Zambia so I had to pay for a flight there and accommodation and so on – I remember shooting 83 and 78 and I thought 'that could be me done'.

That was a hell of a lot more pressure than trying to win a tournament. Rory probably doesn’t even know how much money he has in his bank account!

Would you take offence to being labeled a "journeyman"?

People called me that three, four, five years ago, which I took offence to. But if you look at the last five years I haven’t contended that often – I’ve had a second [he lost in the European Masters play-off in 2014] and a third.

But I’ve maintained my card every year, even though I’ve had bad starts every season. But as I say, your life changes as you get older and you have family and kids which changes your perspective on what’s most important. It’s more of a job rather than the game you love and wanting to play week in, week out. 

Looking forward, what are your ambitions?

I’ve had to re-evaluate my goals. At the start of the year I wanted to get myself in the top 60 bracket on the European Tour to play in the Final Series and maybe win a tournament after losing in a play-off last year.

But making two cuts in 11 starts this season I’ve had to go 'come on a minute, I think the priority is to retain my card this season and move forward next year'. I just have to take each week as it comes – you never know what’s coming round the corner. Last season I was miles away in Switzerland and finished second.

One minute you're looking at Tour school and then next the Race to Dubai so it can change on the flip of a coin, it just depends on which week you do it on. You never know what’s round the corner in this game.

Graeme Storm is an ambassador for global logistics provider GAC. For more information visit www.gac.com

 

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