Pro golf’s Valley of Despair 

Ivan Morris

Shane Lowry (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Ivan Morris

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When you are playing well, and winning money, pro golf is a great life. When you’re not playing well, missing cuts and not making money, it’s hell.

In spite of Ireland’s success in producing major championship winners, the long list of Walker Cuppers and Internationals who have ‘bombed’ as pros always makes me stop and think. GUI officials are quick to state that it isn’t their role to develop players for the pro ranks, but it is the inevitable result that follows on from producing a stream of world-class amateur golfers.

The vast majority of professional golfers live a lonely life with an uncertain income earned in an unpredictable theatre of ferocious competition. A professional golfer on the treadmill of the tour and his partner left at home can experience intense isolation and loneliness. It takes a particular type of mentality to cope.

There’s no support, no structure and no backup. Being left on your own to sink or swim must come as a shock, especially if you are used to the comfort of being part of a representative team in an atmosphere where there is always a supportive manager paying your bills, boosting your confidence and telling you what to do.

When someone has spent their entire formative years aiming at becoming a professional golfer and they fail, they will have missed out on so much. In the meantime, the hobby golfer with above average ability is also sorely neglected.

All golf clubs need their quota of good players. A golf club without a scratch man is a soulless place that can lose members because the ethos of ‘good golf’ is not as admired as it ought to be. Too many good, young golfers between 25 and 35 fall out of golf because the GUI doesn’t do enough to support low handicappers who are wise enough to steer clear of professionalism.

To become a successful amateur golfer today is a full-time job that inevitably ends with the majority taking the plunge into what can quickly become a valley of despair. The day you turn pro is the day the GUI dispenses with you. The day you turn pro is the day you become an outcast, and an outcast you’ll stay unless by some miracle you cheat the odds and hit the big time. Happy endings are few and far between.

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4 responses to “Pro golf’s Valley of Despair ”

  1. Ross avatar

    But if our youger players are given an ethos of education first and there’s more to life than just golf then it’s always worth a try.If people didn’t try, golf would be in a worse state.
    The kid’s are pushed all too often to live out the parent’s dreams of becoming professional but that usually leads to failure. We all have dream job’s. Very few get to live it out.But you can’t not try because you might fail or it might not pay the bills!
    Life’s tough!These are adults,they may have failed in there eyes but at least they gave themselves a shot at it,which very few even get to experience.
    Don’t be afraid to fail.If it doesn’t work out at least you know you tried!

  2. Gerry Gilligan avatar
    Gerry Gilligan

    As long as one learns from”failure “ there is a positive aspect to it. The professional world is a very tough game and even a excellent amateur playing of plus five may not make it there. But that should not stop anyone from trying to achieve a tour card. Deep pockets and decent Sponsorship for first few year essential. Good luck to anyone brave enough to dip there toe into this tough world.

  3. Michael Farrell avatar
    Michael Farrell

    I wouldn’t say that a Club is soulless without a scratch golfer. I’m sure there are many vibrant Clubs like my own, with a strong cohort of Category 1 players, some of whom may get down to scratch one day. However, for the vast majority of golfers that I know, that will never happen. Nevertheless, they will continue to enjoy playing their game in convivial company, and when conditions again allow, partake in all the social activities that being a Club member offers, without any thought of handicaps.

  4. Jim avatar

    It’s true that the day a young amateur golfer decides to leave the GUI comfort zone they are cut adrift to fend for themselves. Unfortunately that’s the harsh reality of turning professional in the modern era.
    I for one would like to see the GUI continue to finance our young aspiring pros during their fledgling year or even two depending on age and ability etc. It would mean an increase in our GUI tax for sure but wouldn’t be great to see some of our best young amateurs give the pro ranks a shot for a couple of years knowing that they have a safety net to cover basic expenses for travel, accommodation entry fees etc.
    Unfortunately not all our talented youngsters have parents with deep pockets and would benefit enormously from a bit of funding. Alas it probably won’t happen anytime soon but just imagine our top level amateur players being given the chance to give it a go and be followed every step of the away by the members in their home clubs. It would be a great thrill seeing one of our own tee it up on the Challenge or European Tour knowing that we all contributing in our own small way to support their efforts.
    Perhaps the amalgamation of the GUI and ILGU into the new Golf Ireland should consider it as an option going forward.

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