Since then the 20-year-old has been trying to adapt to life on the European Tour as he sneaks into events on the back of sponsor invitations and the pull of his management company as he goes in search of full exemption.
“I’m loving it,” Stone said of his experiences on Tour so far as he put his name in the upper reaches of the leaderboard at the Joburg Open yesterday thanks to a round of 67 on the West course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington.
“Travelling abroad has been good – I’ve been to countries like Kazakhstan, Finland, Norway – which have been amazing experiences. I’m looking forward to the year ahead,” he added.
Stone has already experienced a few of the mixed emotions that come with being a full-time professional on the circuit with a top-20 finish at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January followed by a missed cut at the Qatar Masters the following week. Simple teething problems but nothing to panic about.
“I loved every second on the desert swing,” Stone said of the experience in the Middle East.
“Wherever I play I want to give put my name up there. I might not win a few, I might play badly on the weekend and so on, but I want to give myself the opportunity to play against the top guys in the world. I want to get used to that feeling,” he said.
“I think that first top-10 was a shock to the system, because you’ve grown up idolising these players. To go out in your first tournament and beat so many of them is a surprise,” he reflected on his debut performance last year.
“Over the past two months I’ve been grinding at my game and working on the things that you need in order to compete in this format. The major goal is to get full European Tour status, but right now I just want to compete in tournaments,” he added.
There’s the added incentive this week of possibly qualifying for the British Open with three players in the top-10 not already exempted handed playing privileges for Royal Liverpool at Hoylake later this year but Stone admits that while it would be a huge honour, it’s the least of his worries for now as he looks towards a good finish on the weekend.
“You dream of playing the British Open from when you’re seven years old and playing on the putting green. Right now it’s more about getting that first tee shot away, getting the nerves settled, holing that first putt and getting comfortable,” he said referring to his round today.