Playing at The Open seemed a long way off for Michael Stewart in the not-too-distant past but the Scot is now soaking up every moment as he prepares for a weekend stay at Royal Liverpool.
Fresh from “the most fun I’ve had on a golf course in a long time” when compiling an opening-day 68, bouncing back from consecutive bogeys on the first two holes in the process, Stewart climbed to a share of third at one stage on day two and he remained in the red despite a double bogey at the par-5 15th.
Stewart will tee off on Saturday at -1 after carding a 73 and whatever happens over his final two rounds, there remains a sense he is pinching himself at what he has achieved in recent times.
He considered giving up the game during the Covid-19 pandemic, when he took up a job at a hand sanitiser firm run by his friend’s father and stayed for just over what turned into a busy year.
As he prepares to battle it out over what remains of The 151st Open, he can now be relieved he didn’t put the clubs away for good.
“It's not like a poor me story, it's just that's what people have to do,” he said.
“There are so many guys that have been in the same position as me that have just left and they've not come back.
“I was fortunate enough to work. The people I was working for were great enough to let me go and play golf on the Tartan Pro Tour and I was eligible to play Q-school and I got my card back, which gave me some kind of financial security.
“It would have been crazy for me to think that I could have just laid off 2020 and go and practised my golf or wait for the golf to start. It's not the reality.”
Stewart was part of the Great Britain & Ireland team at the 2011 Walker Cup, when the hosts overcame a USA team featuring four players also in the field this week – Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Russell Henley and Harris English.
Only Spieth of that quartet has had a better first two rounds than the Scot, who is also the highest placed of his fellow countrymen.
“There are so many good Scottish players, so it's nice that I'm up there,” he said.
“I'm sure come Sunday there's going to be quite a few of us that are kind of there or thereabouts, guys that are playing great that will kind of push through.
“The Scottish guys know how to handle the tough weather. I should say British and Irish guys also know how to handle some tough weather, so hopefully all of us can push up the leaderboard on Saturday and Sunday.”
Those memories remain vivid and he is creating plenty more this week alongside his caddie and good friend Stuart Muir, the bar manager at Barassie Golf Club.
“It feels amazing,” he said.
“It's hard to put into words exactly how I'm feeling. My feet are killing me.
“I'm proud of myself and I feel I’ve played really solid.
“It's kind of hard to gauge what I want. I want to just keep having fun, just keep playing remotely decent golf, holing putts, hearing people cheer for you.
“I've got great support with me and it's been a great experience. I just hope the weekend can match what's happened the first 36 holes.”