We have all lost something during this thoroughly wretched pandemic.

Even those simple pleasures, carefree habits, soothing staples and comforting routines that are part and parcel of everyday living have all been sacrificed as we seek salvation from the infernal menace of Covid-19 and its wider ravages.

For thousands, of course, the greater loss of life itself has been a devastating reality. For Glasgow golfer Conor O’Neil and his family, it has been unbearably harrowing.

O’Neil’s dad Danny, a well-kent, hugely popular and prolific businessman, and uncle both lost their lives due to mental health last year, shattering their families and illustrating just how desperate the side effects of lockdown can be.

“We are being asked to stay indoors to save lives and while that protects people from the coronavirus, the impact on people’s mental health and ability to access face to face support is serious and doesn’t always save lives”, said O’Neil of these dreadful, sudden losses.

Amid this trauma, golf has provided some soothing sanctuary for O’Neil, even though his professional career on the third-tier PGA EuroPro Tour has been stalled since last year.

“When you are playing golf, even on the third-tier, you’re still travelling around and you’re 100mph all the time,” said O’Neil, who is now building a coaching portfolio with tuition at both his home club of Pollok and the Bishopbriggs Golf Range. “That’s how you lived your life and suddenly you weren’t doing that. I’ve tried so hard to keep busy because it’s basically the only way I can cope. 

"Anyone who has been through this kind of tragedy will probably say the same thing. The problem is keeping busy in lockdown is not as easy as it would be normally. That we’ve still been able to play golf recreationally, and I can still teach, has been an absolute God send. It’s given me a huge release. I can still spend four or five hours a day doing and talking about something I love.”

While his passion and profession has given him some much-needed escapism and purpose, a determination, along with his tight-knit family, to help others experiencing similar personal tumult and anxieties has also provided an outlet for his grief.

“As a family, we have been very open about what we have been through,” reflected O’Neil, whose brother Patrick is a goalkeeper with Brechin City and is also keen to raise awareness of mental health issues. “I’m not saying anything good comes from this, there’s not, but if we can get on the way to helping others, through education, facilities, whatever, then it’s something.

“My dad was a great people person and a great help to so many in so many different ways. If I’ve inherited one thing from him, I’d like to think it’s a similar approach to people. I’m pretty open, honest and prepared to listen. The other week I signed up to be a mentor to kids around Glasgow. It’s all ages and backgrounds speaking to young people who maybe haven’t had the right adult influence or just need a pal to talk to because lockdown has led to loneliness and separation.”

O’Neil has chipped away at the third-tier coalface since turning pro back in 2013. A fifth place finish in the EuroPro Tour’s 2019 Tour Championship wasn’t enough to earn him promotion to the next rung but it gave him a spring in the step for the 2020 campaign. And then coronavirus swept in. The schedule was obliterated and O’Neil, like countless others, was left in a competitive no man’s land.

“I’m still fearful it could be the same this year,” added O’Neil. “It’s quite disheartening. To lose two years, at this stage of a career, would be horrendous and everybody at this level will be thinking the same. We can’t play for a living. How do you catch the guys on the TV when you’re just sitting at home? I’m 28. I’m not getting any younger. I felt I’d been making headway in 2019, I wasn’t far away and then 2020 was wiped out. I took a job in a supermarket, not just for the money but to have something to do in lockdown. As a professional golfer I suppose there was a wee bit of dented pride but I’m glad I did it. It was good, honest work. It was character building.”

That strength of character continues to help O’Neil emerge from a horrendous year in which he and his family lost so much.