Access to the top events is too restrictive for players

Bernie McGuire
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Access to the top events is too restrictive for players

A record low of just a paltry three players — Eddie Pepperell, Ashley Chesters and Edoardo Molinari — kept their European Tour cards for next season from the 30 handed out 12 months ago. The rest had to go back to ‘Qualifying School’ this week.

In spite of the obvious ascendancy of youth, never has the chance of graduating and gaining a place at the top table been so slim. Pepperell will be the only graduate from last year’s Qualifying Schools to tee it up as one of the European Tour’s top-60 at the Race To Dubai Championship tomorrow.

The Daily Mail isn’t the first newspaper I read in the morning but it has a really fine golf correspondent named Derek Lawrenson. Every now and again, Derek writes something that rocks my boat. He did so on Monday when he pointed out that five years ago, Rory McIlroy and Webb Simpson were the only two golfers under 30-years old in the World’s Top-10.

Today, there are seven players under-30 on the (full) list that reads: 1-Dustin Johnson (33-years old), 2-Jordan Spieth (24), 3-Justin Thomas (24), 4-Hideki Matsuyama (25), 5-Jon Rahm (23), 6-Rose (37), 7-Rickie Fowler (28), 8-McIlroy (28), 9-Henrik Stenson (41) and 10-Brooks Koepka (27).

My take is that while it is a startling development, it does not necessarily follow that it will be good for the future of the game – at any level, not just the professional tours. Lawrenson asks the same question that I have posed so often: Has life been skewed horribly for those seeking to make their way but are more and more unlikely to ever gain access? Why has the success rate plummeted so alarmingly at the same time as the new Rolex Series (8 events that have added much wealth and prestige at the top end of the European game?)

“Tom Lewis finished tied 11th at Q-School last year but never came close to keeping his card. A top-three finish in Prague did not earn him as much as Marcel Siem made for finishing 27th in the French Open. Siem claimed the last card on offer, despite mustering only five top 20 finishes from six more events than Lewis. With access only to events with small prize funds, graduates are unable to overtake seasoned journeymen who get into the Rolex tournaments.”

Derek Lawrenson is onto something. I attended the second stage of qualifying for the European Tour last week at what I consider ‘one of the best golf courses in Spain’ – Las Colinas de Campoamor in Alicante. The standard of golf played at the top end was stunning. It really would make you wonder how good you have to be to establish yourself? It seems to me that the ET needs to ‘improve access’ and beef up all of its purses (including the Challenge Tour) by spreading the Rolex money around more evenly. Otherwise the rich will keep getting richer and the poor won’t even be able to afford to buy a golf ball.

It’s a reflection of ‘real life’ and the new, post-capitalism, age of wage slavery we are now in that will kill all recreational activities within two or three generations if we are not careful. The rich continuing to get richer and who knows if they will have their own private playgrounds that will include super-exclusive golf courses for them foozle around on? No tournaments anymore – just exhibition matches for the privileged few like they used to have in the roaring twenties.

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