SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – When you start your journey in Waterford, Ireland, and opt for a route that takes you through Johnson City, Tennessee, you likely are the sort of person who is prepared to do it your own way. Strictly by feel and determination.
So, there was no timetable? No itinerary for this pro golf business?
Seamus Power nodded his head.
“I always said if I thought that I was good enough to win on the PGA TOUR,” he said, “I was going to keep playing.”
Which means that after graduating from East Tennessee State and turning pro in 2011 and toiling for five years of mini-tours and the Korn Ferry Tour, Power still believed he could win on the PGA TOUR?
“If I thought for a second I wasn’t (going to win), I would have stopped,” he said. “That was my mentality going into it.”
Casey Nelson wasn’t around in those formative days of Seamus Power, but she isn’t surprised to hear that was her boyfriend’s mindset. Since she started dating him in September 2019 (brought together by Power’s cousin), one quality stands out above all the man’s positive traits.
“He’s such a strong thinker, so strong mentally,” she said.
If she were to go down the list to No. 2, Nelson said it was easy. She spread her hands to welcome the scene around her – a crowd of thick brogues and wide smiles and loud cheers surrounded her and Power’s caddie, Simon Keelan, who was draped in an Irish flag and feverishly celebrating his man’s win Sunday at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
“You see,” said Nelson about the 35-year-old Power, “he surrounds himself with a nice, Irish crowd. He’s a proud Irishman and you know what they say, ‘Once you find an Irishman, you stick with them.’”
We’ll take her word on that one, but we do know what they say in golf-speak, that when it blows – as it did, with a fury on the final holes at Port Royal Golf Course Sunday – put your faith in a man who can rely upon a ball-striking talent honed on Irish links.
“He flights it beautifully, doesn’t he?” said caddie J.P. Fitzgerald, another proud Irishman who waited to congratulate both Power and Keelan. Fitzgerald now loops for Thomas Detry, an unheralded Belgian of good stock who closed with 67 for 18-under 266, which would turn out to be second to Power’s 70 – 265.
Fitzgerald wasn’t surprised to hear that Power walked off the 11th green trailing the leader and his playing competitor, Ben Griffin, by two, and that when he turned into the wind for the next seven holes he picked up four strokes.
“He’s got the feel for the place,” smiled Fitzgerald and indeed, Power confirmed as much.
“I was absolutely fine with the wind the last couple of days, because I’ve been lucky enough to play here a few times,” said Power, whose previous three trips to the Butterfield Bermuda Championship resulted in finishes of T31, T37 and T12. Now he adds a victory.
Now if you study that and suggest the man has shown steady improvement, a bell should go off, because that defines Power perfectly. Slowly and with very little fanfare, the man from County Waterford rode a consistency along a PGA TOUR career that began in the 2016-17 season.
No, he hadn’t won, but if true to his word, he was still playing because he believed he could. Then at the Barbasol Championship in July 2021, Power was two off the lead through 36 holes, but he had a 67-67 weekend and beat J.T. Poston in a six-hole playoff.
It was his 106th start on the PGA TOUR. It’s taken him just 31 tournaments to win for the second time.
Suddenly, that sort of talk about only playing professionally if you thought you could win on the PGA TOUR doesn’t sound so silly, does it?
“I didn’t have any interest in playing (professionally) unless it was at the highest level,” said Power.
Power’s self-belief wasn’t exactly without company. Keelan, a proper golfer from County Cork, embraced the opportunity to caddie for his fellow Irishman. They had competed in junior golf back in Ireland, but Keelan became golf professional at Monkstown GC, which overlooks Cork Harbour.
A chance to caddie for Spaniard Azahara Muñoz on the LPGA Tour tore Keelan away from Monkstown and gave him a taste of this lifestyle, so when Power offered him a job, he jumped at it. Watching Power’s steady rise on the world stage – he came into the week No. 48 in the Official World Golf Ranking and now has five top-10 finishes on the PGA TOUR since Jan. 1 – is owed to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is an ability to play in difficult conditions.
“He’s always had good control,” said Keelan, who agreed that the sequence of shots at the par-4 14th paved the way for his man.
Sitting at 20-under par, one behind Griffin, Power went quintessential ball-striker at the key point. He busted a 2-iron that bore through a bustling wind, then drilled a low wedge to the back of the green and snaked home a 25-footer for birdie. Griffin made double bogey and Power was in front to stay.
True, there were demanding holes coming up at 15 and 16, but there was a comfort factor. Power conceded so and Keelan explained why. “This place feels like a second home,” he laughed. “The Irish are so good to us here.”
Nelson embraced Irish fan after Irish fan and shook her head, especially when told that Bermuda is about 3,000 miles from Ireland. But if Nelson thinks that doesn’t make sense, consider that it is even a further trip from County Waterford to Johnson City, Tennessee, right?
Yes, it is, Power has navigated that exceedingly well, has he not?