Your Ticket to the Dream Life

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Does the lure of an endless summer playing golf on carefully manicured courses for ridiculous sums of money seem like the dream life to you? It certainly does for the thousands of amateur and professional golfers who are looking to trade toasters and gift vouchers for substantial pay cheques.

At the end of each year these players put their money, reputations, golf games and emotions on the line. Why this time of the year? Because this is when they have their only opportunity for the year to compete against hundreds of other hopefuls with similar dreams for the right to compete on a professional Tour for the upcoming year.

Each Tour is a series of tournaments conducted during the following calendar year. The number of tournaments and their prize purses varies from Tour to Tour. The best known are the US and European mens’ and womens’ Tours. However there are plenty of others held in different golfing countries around the world.

Once a player is successful in gaining their card (playing rights) for a particular Tour, they can then compete on that Tour for a year. Provided they play well enough, they may earn the right to keep their card for the subsequent year.

Who wouldn’t want to be part of this scene? Not only do the very best players get to compete for huge prize purses, but there are sponsor endorsements, luxury accommodation, courtesy cars and world travel.

There is, however, some fine print to this dream life. The percentage of players who earn their cards at these multi-stage qualifying schools is only a small percentage of those who enter them.

Two examples of how the qualifying process works are with the US men’s Web.com Tour and the LPGA (women’s US Tour) whose Qualifying Schools were held late 2014.

The Web.com Qualifying School for the 2015 Tour was held over three multi-round stages. The first stage is four rounds with the top few players advancing to the second stage where they are joined by players who didn’t have to play the first qualifying stage. The second stage is also four rounds and the leading few players advance to the final stage. The final stage is six rounds with the top 49 players earning the right to compete on the Web.com Tour for a year. In all there were 1131 entrants who were attempting to qualify with 49 earning their 2015 cards. That is only 4.3%. Yes, the decimal point is in the right place.

The qualifying for the LPGA Tour is over two stages. The first stage is four rounds and the final stage is five rounds. There were a total of 323 players who entered and 24 earned their cards for 2015. So 7.4% were successful.

The percentage of successful entrants on other Tours for the 2015 season were
European Tour (men) – 2.7%
Asian Tour (men) – 15%
Australasian Tour (men) – 13%
Ladies European Tour – 19%

It certainly is a cut throat profession. And when you consider there is only one qualifying school for each Tour, it makes those events seem impossibly important.

The players who are struggling to pay their way make up the majority of professional golfers. The smaller Tours around the world, especially the ones like the Australasian mens’ and womens’ Tours last for only a few weeks. Prize money earned in these tournaments won’t sustain even the winners, let alone the majority of players who go home from a tournament each week without any prize money.

We only get to see the best players in the world on television. After all, why would a television network be interested in showing players who are struggling to make ends meet? So as a viewer, we don’t get to see these players either. This gives a very skewed version of the reality of life as a professional golfer.

Once a player has earned their card, the really tough challenge of playing well enough to retain it begins.

The message to the thousands of players with dreams of playing the game for a living is to be prepared to work harder than you think possible for a few years in the lead up to your first attempt at one of these qualifying schools. Because most of the competitors you will be up against will be doing just that at their respective home courses in different parts of the world.

I am all for encouraging players to pursue their dreams, but bringing those dreams to fruition takes more than just a wish and a few good rounds at your local club. You need to compare yourself with the very best players in your country, not at your club.

If you back your dream with hard and smart practice over a few years, combined with quality coaching, have plenty of success and under-par rounds against strong competition, then you will have the beginnings of a game which can take you to the professional Tours of the world, and those endless summers.

 

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