Parry thinks big as he targets place in top 60

WHEN John Parry steps onto the tee in South Africa today he will become the fifth member of Great Britain and Ireland's 2007 Walker Cup team to have graduated to the European Tour.

The 23-year-old from Harrogate joins his fellow Yorkshireman Danny Willett, Stockport's David Horsey, Welshman Rhys Davies and Ulsterman Rory McIlroy, as a fully-fledged member of the continent's elite band of professionals.

Famous five they may not yet be, but in McIlroy they have a shining light to guide and inspire them. Willett and Horsey have already adapted quickly to life on tour; the task now for Parry, the 2005 Yorkshire Amateur champion, is to make a similarly effortless transition.

He has patiently waited his turn, winning a host of amateur titles in the run-up to his Walker Cup appearance in Ireland before turning professional and finishing 10th on the EuroPro tour in 2008.

As McIlroy blazed a trail towards the world's top 20 this year and Willett recorded a series of top-10 finishes, Parry set up base on the Challenge Tour after the heartache of finishing one shot away from the final two rounds of Tour qualifying school in November 2008.

Despite only initially gaining exemption to eight events, Parry soon earned himself more opportunities by winning the Allianz Golf Open Grand Toulouse with a final-round 63.

He finished 14th on the Challenge Tour money list, bypassing the torture of qualifying school to gain full status on the European Tour.

"It's been good to slowly build up to it and keep improving year-on-year rather than jump straight into it," said Parry, whose Tour career begins at Leopard Creek today in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

"Obviously to have gone straight onto the tour would have been nice but you can always get bounced straight back again.

"I could have got on a couple of years ago but I don't think I was good enough then so it was probably a good thing that I didn't.

"A lot of people off the Challenge Tour have gone up through the ranks and made an impact because they get used to winning."

Can Parry follow McIlroy to the top?

"You never know," he says.

"Rory's in a different league to the rest of us. Some develop quicker than others. But I'd like to try and win as early as possible.

"I might as well target the top 60 to get into the Dubai World Championship, rather than just say I hope to keep my card.

"It gives me a little more confidence that half of that Walker Cup squad are now on tour.

"It says to me that if I was beating them and playing alongside them in the amateur ranks, there's no reason why I can't do it as a pro."