The reality of reaching the big leagues can be lost in a saturated market
There is a long held belief that the British press builds its sports stars up only to then knock them down. I’ve never quite believed that. Then again, I don’t read The Sun, so I probably wouldn’t know. So take this ‘opinion’ piece for what it is: constructive criticism.
I’m all for growing the game and giving golf every opportunity to improve and expand. That said, I think there’s one aspect of the professional game that needs addressing and that’s the obsession we seem to have with mini tours.
Indeed, mini tours, satellite tours, whatever you want to call them, they are meant to be stepping stones to greater things - but they could actually be doing more harm than good.
Before you step in, I’m not including the Challenge Tour in this category. To me, that’s a secondary circuit to the European Tour and, up to now, has been a major success by giving a platform for many players to progress onto the main tour.
The ‘other’ tours, however, are actually hindering many players and, in some cases, creating more problems. Problems such as false hope. Some of those players, let’s be honest, shouldn’t be there.
Scott Jamieson, the Scottish golfer on the European Tour, once told this newspaper’s sister magazine, bunkered, that if you spent any more than three years on the EuroPro Tour you were “never going to make it”.
Now, if you speak to any of the players who play on the EuroPro Tour, you will hear few bad words about the tour, and that is to its credit. It is well run, goes to some great venues, is largely UK based, and gives players competitive opportunities.
But the big picture is often distorted these days. Add in the Alps Tour, Pro Golf Tour, Nordic Golf League, Swedish Golf Tour - the list is almost endless – and you have a saturated market. These tours are filled with players who believe they are one step from the big league, when in actual fact they are attempting to make a career at a level nobody aspires to be at for any length of time.
If the number of mini tours were reduced, yes, fewer players would be given opportunities to compete - but that might not actually be a bad thing. The cream would rise to the top. The best players make it no matter where they are. I know players who have floundered on mini tours and racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt all in the hope that they’re going to make it.
False hope is the worst kind of hope. Take the GB&I players who qualify for the Walker Cup. Being given the opportunity to compete against the best Americans at the end of their amateur careers gives them the assumption that they are the best of the best on this side of the Atlantic. However, if you picked the Walker Cup team based on the world rankings alone, half the team would be from Continental Europe. Half the GB&I players wouldn’t be good enough to make the side. You only need to look at the list of GB&I Walker Cup players who have not made it in the last ten years to see that something needs to change. Those lads play on a Walker Cup side one minute, then the next they are up against players from all over Europe on a mini tour (who they have never heard of) and can’t work out why it’s much tougher than they thought.
The journey to the European Tour has never been harder. Making that journey for aspiring tour pros more streamlined might create less heartache, and save a lot of hassle.
You can follow Bryce on Twitter @Bryce_N4