An embarrassment of riches 

$15million man and FedExCup Champion Rory McIlroy. Picture by Getty Images

How important is the pot of cash at the end of every weekly rainbow? Are the big bucks what attracts us mere mortals to the superstars who operate in such a lucrative playground that the rest of us can only dream of? 

Is it the raw talent on show that can bring most courses to its knees or is it the lure of the trappings and lifestyle that feeds our voyeuristic golf tendencies? Does sport need the megastar, the untouchables, so that we can appreciate their talents even more? Or does placing the game’s elite on a pedestal reinforce the often, tough slog at the other end of the spectrum of professional tour life? 

So many questions, but at this juncture in the season, cash is king. Those dining at the top table might still be jetting around the globe hoovering up appearance money and invitational coin, whereas the real slugfest takes place further down the ranks where careers and next season’s playing rights are at stake. 

Those involved in these battles already have their sleeves rolled up. They are operating away from the media spotlight but that doesn’t mean their talent and fortitude is any dimmer than their peers further up the pecking order. Far from it, some might say it’s these character-building trench encounters that makes a player, makes them appreciate top tour life if they make the grade. 

Rory McIlroy’s $15 million haul at the recent FedEx Cup still lingers in the back of this hacker’s consciousness. Full credit to our own leading light. He is only competing for what’s in front of him. Only he and Eldrick have won this bounty multiple times. Esteemed company for sure. Every player would seek McIlroy’s opportunities. He’s earned them, they are his for the taking. 

A week later McIlroy jetted to the Swiss slopes of Crans for a rare European Tour appearance. Though he went close, the impression was it was just a bit of time out; a soft week after landing the big loot. That observation could be perceived as disingenuous and not taking account that McIlroy has the ability to make the game look so ridiculously easy there are times you wonder if he is really trying? 

Merely observations. 

However, by comparison, one of McIlroy’s compatriots is knocking his pan in trying to graduate from the Challenge Tour for a fraction of the money with just as much, if not more, effort. 

Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin is flying on the Road to Mallorca standings (sixth) and is currently in line for one of the top15 spots that secure European Tour cards for next season. 

For this particular plight he has season’s earnings of €82,280 from 12 Challenge Tour events, over €3k less than one week’s effort at the Irish Open where he finished leading Irishman (tied 15th) in Lahinch. 

Sharvin and co are chasing down Scotland’s Calum Hill, who has two wins and a handful of other tops 10s this campaign for total earnings of €114,462. Stark contrast to figures earned at the top.  

“As things stand my sole focus is on the Challenge Tour,” Sharvin said recently. “Challenge Tour is definitely the best route for me to get off this tour and get my main European Tour Card for next year.” 

The tour has adopted the points system this year in pursuit of a more level playing field and that has been largely welcomed among players. This week many also embarked on the gruelling season-ending Qualifying School process. Chasing dreams takes graft. Those grafting are not necessarily complaining; they knew what they were getting into when they signed up for tour life – or at least they should have. 

For this casual observer, however, the question is a simple one; would the game not benefit more if the distribution of wealth was spread more evenly?