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.