Once Gareth Shaw got his foot in the door on the European Tour, he realized he could play with the big boys.
Shaw, a former East Tennessee State All-American golfer, just completed a two-week whirlwind, and the 27-year-old is hoping it turns out to be a fortnight that helps define the rest of his career.
Shaw got an invitation to play in the Irish Open, and the Northern Ireland native took advantage of his opportunity, finishing tied for fifth. Along the way, he beat Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clark, winners of a combined seven majors.
The paycheck of more than $80,000 will certainly go a long way, considering Shaw is playing regularly this year on the Challenge Tour, where total purses usually don‘t exceed $250,000.
“I got a break getting an invite for the Irish Open, and luckily I have taken it,” Shaw said.
ETSU coach Fred Warren was on hand to see Shaw’s first top-five finish on the European Tour. Warren also had current player Rhys Pugh and former Bucs golfers Rhys Davies, Seamus Power and Cian McNamara in the Irish Open field.
Warren will watch Pugh compete in his first British Open next week.
“It was great to have Coach over and to see him again,” Shaw said. “It was great to catch up with him and hear his thoughts about my game since I was last at ETSU.”
The performance in Ireland got Shaw into last week’s French Open, and he hung around long enough for a final-round 69 to propel him into a tie for 13th place. He earned $57,000 for that effort.
“It feels great to perform at the top level and in front of big crowds,” Shaw said. “Anytime you perform when it matters, it feels good. And that’s what I’ve done in the last two weeks. In Ireland I was on the cut mark after 31 holes, but played my next five in three under. In France I was 64th after the first round, so I’m pleased that I’ve played well when the cards are down.”
Shaw was the Atlantic Sun Conference golfer of the year in 2008. He was a two-time All-American for ETSU and headed back home to turn pro after graduating.
Two good early finishes on the Challenge Tour, Europe’s version of the Web.com Tour, earned him playing privileges, and he kept his card until losing it in 2011. He regained his Challenge Tour card by winning the Order of Merit on last year’s Alps Tour.
During his 2012 season, Shaw changed a few things, trying to become more professional and add a support system of “people around me who would help me achieve my goals and believe in me.”
“I have a strong team around me helping me in all areas, and to see things come together is very encouraging,” said Shaw, who credits improved wedge play and putting for his recent surge.
After enjoying his taste of success at Europe’s top level, Shaw will return to the Challenge Tour in hopes of playing some more on the European Tour.
“The margins between success and failure are tiny out here,” he said. “I have got my foot in the door and now I have a chance to walk through it.”