Lewis plots bright future

By Peter ScrivenerBBC Sport

Four years ago, a teenage Rory McIlroy was busy with a paintbrush correcting his misspelled surname on his Great Britain & Ireland bag ahead of the Walker Cup.

McILrory, as he had been monikered, was preparing to play in his final competition as an amateur before venturing out onto the professional circuit.

This weekend Tom Lewis will be following in the Northern Irishman's footsteps by taking on the Americans in the amateur equivalent of the Ryder Cup, on the Balgownie Links at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.

And the 20-year-old Englishman is hopeful that the similarities between his and McIlroy's final year as an amateur will not end when he too turns professional after the event.

You may remember Lewis flickering onto the radar in the first round of the Open at Sandwich in July.

He announced himself by shooting a five-under-par 65, the lowest score by an amateur in the competition's history, to share the lead with Denmark's Thomas Bjorn.

Lewis would go on to finish tied for 30th and win the Silver Medal for the best performance by an amateur, a feat McIlroy achieved at Carnoustie in 2007.

McIlroy was unable to inspire the Great Britain & Ireland team to victory in the 2007 Walker Cup, but what followed is almost the stuff of fairytale, as the then teenager played well enough in the four events he entered in late 2007 to earn his European Tour card for 2008.

A first European Tour win followed in 2009 and in June of this year, at the age of 22, he broke his major duck, becoming the youngest winner of the US Open since Bobby Jones in 1923.

"I'd love to follow in the footsteps of Rory, but that will be really hard," Lewis told BBC Sport.

"To get anywhere near as good as Rory is would be great but I know I just need to get my head down and practise for now.

"I know I don't want to go to the [European] Tour [Qualifying] School, so I have to make my card in the seven starts I'm allowed.

"I want to play in the best events but I need sponsors' invites."

Lewis, who hails from Welwyn Garden City, the same Hertfordshire town that gave the golfing world six-time major winner Nick Faldo, will need to win somewhere in the region of £200,000 in a little under three months to earn his card for the 2012 European Tour.

But - and the inevitable comparisons with McIlroy keep coming - he is about to join the same management company as the Ulsterman and he already has a couple of offers lined up, beginning with next week's Austrian Open.

He has also been invited to the Dunhill Links Championship in October, which is played at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, the venue where McIlroy recorded his first third-place finish at the 2007 tournament, putting himself in a position to earn his Tour card for 2008.

Lewis has set out a simple, if somewhat daunting, career path for himself.

"I want to earn my Tour card, keep it, then win an event, finish in the top 10 on the Order of Merit, qualify for the Ryder Cup and win some majors," he said.

"It would be nice to win my first event within the next three to four years, although that could happen in the next month of course.

"But if I've not won by the age of 23, I'll be disappointed."

And what will Lewis do with all the money from that first victory?

"I'll pay off mum and dad's debt and say thanks to a few people," he laughed.

"I'm not focusing on turning pro just yet though. The main focus is this weekend's Walker Cup and I'm hoping to sign off with a win."

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