Richard McEvoy’s back-to-back wins in recent weeks show what little difference there is between the Challenge and European Tours and while the wins in the last fortnight might mean little in these parts, in speaking with Michael Hoey recently, he feels it is further proof of how close the two Tours are.
Well, apart from the obvious and key difference; prize funds on the Challenge Tour are generally around 10 per cent of the purses available on the main tour. However, the point Hoey makes is the depth of quality on both tours.
McEvoy was the classic journeyman. He had been to Qualifying School six times and graduated from the Challenge Tour twice, so it’s fair to say the Englishman has been round the block and put in his time.
The 39-year-old recently won Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge on the Challenge Tour and a week later he teed it up on the main European Tour and won the Porsche European Open in Germany. It was McEvoy’s 285thmain tour event and though the two wins were on different tours, the rare back-to-back success appeared seamless.
On the Challenge Tour, McEvoy won €33,600. A week later in Germany he won €333,330.
“It’s incredible, I’ve waited a long time, 17 years as a pro on and off the Tour,” said an emotional McEvoy after his maiden European Tour win. “There’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of bad years, a lot of good years, but it had never quite happened.”
McEvoy said he found some form in recent weeks with a course record 64 at a pro-am at Queenwood when playing with big names like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Adam Scott. In Germany he came out on top against high profile names such as Masters champions Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel.
“The course record was the start of a confidence kick, really. Last week was obviously another boost to the confidence before I came good again this week,” added McEvoy of his purple patch of form.
Hoey, a five-time winner on the main tour but competing on the Challenge Tour at present, believes this overlap of players competing on both tours was inevitable.
“There are so many good players competing out here on tour. We were always going to get to this point,” says Hoey. “Everything is getting so bunched together. Every tour in the world now is getting bunched.”
A straight talking Hoey also suggests there is little to choose between many events on each tour these days apart from the name and the prize money on offer.
“It’s pretty simple, there are some 42 European Tour events, say 30 of them you would class as ‘good’ tournaments, the other 12 might easily be Challenge Tour events, but they won’t be as appealing to sponsors if they are classed as Challenge Tour events even though the fields on both tours now are practically the same, except for a handful of players at the top.”
“Guys find themselves having to choose between both tours, between small European Tour events and larger Challenge Tour events.”
Hoey believes the set-up needs to be reviewed. He thinks there should be more than 15 cards available for those graduating from Challenge Tour each season. But he also wonders about the value of Qualifying School, which is an expensive outlay with little guarantee.
“The system is a bit unfair. It was always harder to get back on the main Tour than stay on tour but now it’s far harder to get on than stay on,” says Hoey, aware that committees and players are reviewing how the set-up between both tours and Qualifying School can be improved.
McEvoy has no such worries. He has enjoyed a life-changing fortnight and right now all the hard work over the years has paid off.