David Howell has played in two European-winning Ryder Cup teams, so knows a bit about what it takes to transform success in the amateur game into a long and successful career on Tour.
And after spending 36 holes casting a watchful eye over British Amateur Champion Scott Gregory as he made his European Tour debut in last week’s British Masters at The Grove, he was more than happy to share his thoughts on the Hampshire ace, who eventually missed the cut by just one shot having shot a creditable 69 on Friday.
Forty-one-year-old Howell was very upbeat about Gregory’s game.
He said: ‘Scott clearly has a lot of game and has a plan when he is out on the course.
‘I think he acquitted himself very, very well, and he is using an invite like this to further his experience and learn how to get comfortable in this environment.
‘He is planning to play more events next year to continue that process.
‘We all saw he can play and I am sure if he continues to progress like this, when the time comes, and he turns pro, he can make the most of those seven invites you get to secure a card and earn the right to be out here on tour.’
The link between Howell and Gregory, who were partnered by big-hitting Swede Pelle Edberg, is striking.
Gregory claimed the British Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl, in June, a prize that should bring the traditional invite to the 2017 Masters at Augusta, as well as a spot in next year’s US Open, as long as he remains an amateur until June.
The other carrot dangling before him if he resists any temptations that may be put in front of him to turn pro by the big management firms currently running the eye over him, is a place in Great Britain and Ireland’s Walker Cup team to face the Americans at Los Angeles Country Club, next summer.
Howell made his Walker Cup debut and famously holed the winning putt, also at Royal Porthcawl – and is pleased Gregory is determined to earn his place in the team for LA next August.
The part-time golf analyst added: ‘The Walker Cup is another great experience. Did it help me for when I faced Tiger Woods & Co. in the Ryder Cup? Not really – but team golf is a great experience at all levels.
‘And sometimes, it is important you take those opportunities and make the most of them, not for any other reason that they come your way.’
Gregory had a large following of family, friends and golf club members from Corhampton, along with Scott’s Hampshire Colts captain Tom Robson at the British Masters.
And they were up on their feet when his approach to the par-three 13th came to rest inches from a first-ever hole in one in a major competition.
Howell then proceeded to hit Gregory’s ball with his own tee shot, and watched it almost roll into the hole.
Having dropped a shot at the 10th, the runner-up in this year’s Spanish Amateur needed three birdies in eight holes to stand any chance of making the cut after three late bogies in four holes in round one saw him slip to three-over.
Gregory left his birdie putt on the edge of the hole at the 12th – before his two at the short 13th gave his supporters hope.
The 22-year-old picked up a birdie three at the par-four 14th after hitting his nine-iron to five feet, and proceeded to give himself a look at birdie chances on the par-five 15th and short uphill par-three 16th, when the ball again came to rest right next to the hole.
But he then found sand off the tee on both 17 and 18 and ultimately could not convert a birdie putt on the last two greens, to miss the cut by one shot.