Luke Elvy: So You Want To Be A Tour Pro?
Like millions of others introduced to golf at an early age, I dreamt of being a tour pro. How could you not? Travelling the world playing the best courses for big money… it’s the dream life. Well, that’s the reality for about 1 per cent, for the rest it’s often a struggle, sometimes a nightmare.
Fortunately for me, I never had the ability or dedication, but having covered the game for almost 20 years I’ve been exposed to the hardship and daily grind, which is a reality for most whose talent suggests they should chase the dream. Here’s a snapshot of some those stories.
Jason Day is one of Australia’s biggest success stories over the past decade (Credit: Anthony Powter)
The Never Was is the worst of all… players who spend years running up huge credit card debts (I’ve heard of $50,000+) chasing their tail on the Pro-Am circuit. Hoping one-day events for $10k each with 80- 100 players in the field will lead them to the promised land. Sadly, it never does.
The Trainee Pro… this system is more a pathway into the world of Club or Teaching pro than Tour life. The best in the past decade was Brent McCullough – a +5 marker from my home club Pymble, who dominated the Trainee system winning more titles than anyone before him including the likes of Norman, Pampling and Lonard.
A handful of years after going on Tour he’s given up the dream to become an insurance broker. Don’t feel sad for him he’s in a happier place now, the security of a regular paycheck will do that.
The Australian Tour Pro… getting a tour card these days isn’t what it used to be. In the past 15 years it’s gone from 15-20 events to four standout events and about 10-12 second tier tournaments. To ‘make it’ this way (I’m guesstimating) is about 1 in 100.
Only one event is co-sanctioned with one of the major Tours – the recently added Perth International with Europe. The Australian Open and PGA are co-sanctioned with OneAsia and the Masters stands alone.
Other than Jin Jeong’s surprise win in Perth last year, name me a player that has really launched their career from our summer of golf in the past five years? The best option now is the US college system.
Daniel Popovic’s stunning 2012 PGA victory got him a couple of WGC starts, but it’s no longer a pathway to the lucrative PGA Tour. Instead most of our better players are grinding their way through Asia, with the hope they might jag a Web.Com card through China or Q-School.
The Web.Com/Challenge Tour players… these guys are so close to the big time they can taste it, but it’s no Disneyland. 156 ultra-talented players tee it up each week where most will spend more money than they make.
For the Aussie contingent, it’s often a lonely world as they can’t afford to have families or support networks travel with them and for most of the year they’re a long way from home. But they live in hope they’ll be one of the fortunate few who graduate to the main tour at years’ end.
For those who get the golden ticket, there is still a lot of work to simply retain that card – think Andrew Dodt, Scott Arnold, Alistair Presnell and Scott Gardiner on both sides of the Atlantic. But these guys are the envy of most who never make it.
When I think of the talent this country has produced over the past decade alone, very few have gone on to live their dream. Hooray for Jason Day and Marc Leishman, but where are Michael Sim, Ewan Porter and Won Joon Lee?
And they fared batter than most…