A year ago, Séamus Power made its debut at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, a large, small, and unrestricted event that, until this year, was restricted to the previous year’s winners on the PGA Tour.
Bauer’s ticket is sealed with his impressive victory in the Barbasol Championship in the summer of 2021, a low-wattage tournament that changed his life.
By Hawaii Power’s weekend, there were dozens of shots out of the lead, meaning he didn’t make his debut in the final round of coverage on US television until he was lining up in a birdie putt on the 18th green.
The commentator had enough time to tell viewers that Bauer grew up in Ireland playing youth golf with Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, importing some stardust from trusted sources.
At the time, Bauer was still working his way out of the wide chorus line on the PGA Tour, and the commentator was safe to assume that any nugget he shared with his American audience would be news to them.
As the season progressed, and Power became a regular on the PGA Tour leaderboards, the commentators needed some new captions for the on-screen photos. Eventually, someone mined the line about Power’s offer of a golf scholarship at East Tennessee University, only after McIlroy turned it down.
It has been repeated in many places in recent years, without ever being quite right. As head of East Tennessee’s golf program, Fred Warren recruited Bauer, and in conversation before Bauer’s debut at The Masters this past April walked the chain of events.
“This is part of an urban legend,” he said. “Rory signed a letter of intent. I didn’t know until March that he wasn’t coming. So Jordan Finley came instead. Rory was going to get a full scholarship. I didn’t give Jordan a full scholarship.
“Rory was getting 100% and I gave Jordan, say, 70%. That left me another 30% for the next year — plus any scholarship I might get by someone who graduates. Seamus undoubtedly got some of that. I’d be very comfortable checking out That Seamus got part of Rory’s scholarship.”
Admittedly, the Disney version of the story was smarter, and had a smaller mouth for the golf commentator. Intent was easy to read, too: During Bauer’s long, meandering hack on the PGA Tour, his backstory with McIlroy and Lowry was an easy way to introduce him to strangers on their couches. His story gave some quoted context.
As teenagers they grew up in the same peer group on the Irish circuit and together they played for Ireland in the European Youth Championship in 2006.
Then Bauer went a separate way. They were not named at the same time again until McIlroy and Lowry sidelined the 2016 Rio Olympics in the face of the Zika virus, and Bauer was drafted as one of their replacements.
By then McIlroy was the world’s fourth-ranked golfer, Lowry was 32nd and Bauer was 295th, plying his trade on the Corn Ferry Tour after years of grunting and grinding on America’s tough little tours.
It would be an extension of a point to say that the force was in the shadow of the other two because their shadows did not reach that far. When Lowry won the Irish Open Amateur Championship in 2009, McIlroy was one of the people who swept Lowry in ecstatic celebrations on the final green of the play-off. McIlroy was already entering the third season of his professional career; Bauer was nearing the end of his third year at East Tennessee.
Lowry and McIlroy shared the same management company for a few years, and although McIlroy was flying at a different altitude, Lowry spent a lot of time in the same general airspace. Where was the force? In another galaxy far away.
Although they all dealt with failure and despair in their careers, neither McIlroy nor Lowry faced the kind of adversity that Bauer overcame. There was one season on the eGolf.com Mini Tour when the $25,000 he won in prize money simply wasn’t enough to cover his entry fees and expenses.
Another season, he only had a few big chunks left in the box and was desperate for a result. So, instead of wasting the entrance fee on courses he didn’t like, he waited for a suitable opportunity and won $12,000 the next time he taught it. Think of the courage you took.
Warren and Bauer kept in touch. His old college coach was convinced Bauer would eventually succeed, but he could see the struggle, too.
“Three years in a row he was right in entering the final bubble at the last leg of the PGA Qualifying School, and three years in a row he missed it by maybe one shot,” Warren said.
“He would come back to campus to practice occasionally and I’d see him and he was so positive. He’d say, ‘Maybe it’s good for me to stay on the mini-tours for another year.’” He was very strong in his mind. “Yeah, it’s okay, it will be better.” .”
“You know, it’s not about who gets there first, it’s about who gets there and lasts the longest.”
right Now? His story is one of the most inspiring in Irish sport: because of where he started, and because of the amount of climbing he’s done on his hands and knees, refusing to give up.
Twelve years after turning professional, and two and a half years after he dropped out of the top 500 in the world rankings, Bauer is now inside the top 30, part of the game’s elite.
He doesn’t hold any of the automatic Ryder Cup team qualifier spots yet, but he’s clearly in the thoughts of Luke Donald. Philip Walton and Lowry were the oldest Irish players to debut in the event at 33 years old. Bauer will be a 36-year-old junior in September and has been schooled from every danger golf can face.
When he returned to the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week he was sitting at the top of the PGA Tour money list. In their remarks about Bauer, American commentators need not mention any other names.