Young Tom makes professional debut in Austria


ATZENBRUGG, Austria – Tom Lewis will take his first step toward earning a European Tour card for next year when he makes his professional debut at the Austrian Open on Thursday.

The 20-year-old Lewis announced last week that he’s turning pro, after raising eyebrows by holding a share of the lead after the first round of this year’s British Open.

Lewis will be joined by Walker Cup teammate Paul Cutler at the Austrian Open, in a field spearheaded by three-time major champion Padraig Harrington.

Lewis has been invited to six more events as he tries to secure a tour card for next season.

“That’s the max you can get so I am lucky,” said Lewis, who won the 2009 Boys Amateur Championship and the 2011 St. Andrews Links Trophy. “I am going to play as good as possible … but it’s a difficult ask to get my card through that.”

Lewis acknowledged to feeling some pressure after turning pro. “I think that is just a desire to do well for everyone that has supported me,” he said. “I am going to prepare the same as I have done as an amateur. Hopefully I can be there on the leaderboard.”

Lewis recorded the lowest round ever by an amateur at the British Open when he shot a 65 to share the first-round lead. He finished 30th overall and was awarded the silver medal for best amateur.

“I’ve played well at the Open this year,” he said. “I’ve competed at the top level as an amateur and I feel it’s time I compete with the top players. My goal was the Walker Cup as an amateur. When I made the team, I felt it was the right time (to turn professional).”

While Lewis has his eyes set on a tour card, Harrington is looking to improve his Race to Dubai position of 87th. He needs to enter the top 60 to qualify for the Dubai World Championship.

“All it takes is a win or one strong finish and I will get into that top 60,” Harrington said.

The Irishman, who had just one top-10 finish this season at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March, has been working on his technique with new coach Peter Cowen.

“I have been making a few changes to my swing,” Harrington said. “The main change … is that the backswing will be wider and shorter. It is starting to feel good and I am really looking forward to getting out and competing.”