Steven's main sport as a boy was swimming and he reached county standard by training before and after school every day. He lived near a golf course where his elder brother and his father both played and at the age of 12 Steven took up the game, too. Golf was the game for him, he decided, and he went on to win the English Schools' Championship and as an amateur he played for England at boy, youth and senior levels. He turned professional in 1987 and made seven visits to the European Tour Qualifying School Finals, five of them successful, but it was a valuable two-year stint on the European Challenge Tour which finally equipped him for life at the higher level. He graduated from the 1993 Qualifying School, retained his playing rights in the 1994 season and hit the headlines in 1995 by finishing third in the Open Golf Championship at St Andrews, just one shot away from joining the play-off with Costantino Rocca and eventual winner John Daly.