17 Sep 2012
Sometimes players can be better off taking a different path to the big stage.
The glitz and glamour of the US PGA Tour has always attracted the attention of aspiring tour professionals and fans alike.
It will continue to do so in the years to come and a major reason being that despite the continuation of the global economic crisis, the PGA Tour have managed to lock in sponsors to multi-year agreements therefore sustaining the ability to host multi-million dollar events on a weekly basis.
In a nutshell, the PGA Tour is ‘The Big Show’.
Each one of their forty-six tournaments provides all the perks and opportunities for players to live out their dreams.
The financial gains, along with the long-term benefits continue to be of more significance in the United States.
The European Tour is gradually closing in and there’s no question that the hierarchy of their Tour have done a magnificent job of promoting their tour over the past decade.
It continues to expand into more unfamiliar regions thus growing and promoting the game globally.
For the up and coming player dreaming of a life succeeding on the world stage in professional golf, the United States still stands head and shoulders above the pack though.
But what happens when one turns professional and all those years spent dreaming of their ‘ticket to ride’ in America quickly becomes more of a ‘pipe dream’?
For various reasons, the player realises that reaching the pinnacle of our game is a much more difficult process than they ever imagined.
In recent years, the majority of our younger golfers have chosen the ‘safety’ options.
What do I mean by ‘safety’?
In one phrase – comfort zone! This safety zone could mean remaining in Australia where they’ll attempt to carve out a living playing the odd pro-am in towns where the standard breakfast is a six pack.
Another part of the safety zone is the relatively new, emerging One Asia Tour.
Players get to compete for decent prize money but with the schedule still developing, earning a profitable living can be a difficult task – particularly with the peaks and troughs in an individual’s form over a calendar year.
The last part of this equation is that the player will choose to fly to the United States and attempt to grind out a living competing on the various ‘mini tours’ across the country.
Besides the long-standing Hooters Tour, the mini tours allow the golfer to remain in one place for the span of a few months whilst never having to commute more than an hour to each venue.
The Gateway Tour in Arizona sees competitors playing in golf carts, wearing shorts, using range finders and some even listen to their iPods in between shots. It leaves some asking if it’s this really professional golf?
A lot of the younger guys choose to come to America because it is an easy place to be. The language is the same, the exchange rate is almost identical, driving around is relatively simple and American women don’t mind an Australian accent. You may laugh but it’s all based on fact.
Back in the 80’s and 90’s, it was common practice for Australian and American players to play a relatively full schedule in Asia or South Africa.
The Asian Tour still possesses quite a solid itinerary for the year and more important are the benefits that can potentially be gained from playing well throughout the season. In 2012, eight of their tournaments are co-sanctioned with the European Tour so one can quickly see how performing well at the right time can open doors.
The Sunshine Tour flies under the radar pretty much everywhere besides the African region. It boasts a full schedule throughout the year and those playing well enough at season’s end can play their way on to the European Tour, gain significant world ranking points and even find themselves exempt to play in World Golf Championship events.
For players who manage to gain status on a particular ‘feeder’ circuit for a season – the Web.Com Tour, European Challenge Tour and Japanese Challenge Tour, by all means I recommend playing that tour and obviously the rewards are there should the form warrant it. Each one of the aforementioned tours is a true indicator of what life in the ‘big show’ is like.
But anyone beginning the season without status to play any major tour, and believe me this is the majority, I suggest you attempt to learn the ropes as a professional golfer in Asia or South Africa.
Even The Alps Tour which winds its way through some more remote regions of Europe, is a great opportunity to find out how well suited you are to dealing with the daily rigours of life on the road and it also affords the player the opportunity to leapfrog his way on to the European Challenge Tour.
One characteristic of successful individuals in business or golf that I have noticed over the years is that they aren’t afraid of adapting to change. They are always up for the challenge of something new and exciting and if nothing else, toughing it out for a season in countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Morocco, Swaziland and Kenya not only provide great life experiences but also bring out the best in one’s character.
In addition, the golfer will learn how to become more independent and deal with adversity in a more composed manner.
Professional golfers are very fortunate that we have so many options as to where we ply our trade and of course circumstances can dictate our approach to travel schedules.
If playing in remote areas of Asia and Africa was good enough for many of the superstars of today’s game then it surely remains as great a place to chase the dream as any.
Ewan Porter is an Australian professional golfer who most recently played on the Web.com Tour in the United States. He won twice on that Tour - the 2008 Moonah Classic and the 2010 South Georgia Classic and is a freelance columnist for GolfAustralia.org.au His views do not necessarily represent those of Golf Australia. You can follow him on Twitter: @ewanports