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  • Alistair Tait

A Vicarious Thrill

Yesterday I mused on children of legendary sportspeople trying hard to fill their parents shoes. Today I’m turning the tables: what’s it like for parents watching offspring strive to make it to the top?

If you’re a Gerry or Rosie McIlroy, or a Samantha or Wayne Hall, then the satisfaction of having reared a child who has won a major championship(s) must be immensely satisfying. What of those whose children who have the talent but are still on the fringes?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen nervous parents walking in galleries at professional/amateur tournaments practically with fingers crossed and nails bitten to the core. An electrocardiogram on each parent would reveal some interesting figures.

I’ve covered enough amateur tournaments and talked to enough parents over the years to realise the anxiety they feel over their child’s future. Many of those parents with the nibbled finger nails simply have no idea how best to instruct their offspring on the right course of action to take to realise their dreams. Nor who to talk to. There’s a lot of conflicting advice. Much of it is based on sound reasoning, but what works for one child won’t necessarily work for another.

The road to success isn’t a straight one. There are a lot of twists and turns and seeming dead ends if your first name isn’t Rory, Bryson, Brooks, Charley, Georgia or Lydia.

Imagine the vicarious thrill parents get when said youngsters win a major, a tournament, the Race to Dubai or Costa Del Sol, or make a Ryder or Solheim Cup team. The words bursting with pride probably don’t even come close.

However, I have felt the vicarious thrill of seeing friends make their way in this extremely tough game. Indeed, that thrill was felt last night when I checked the scores from the Korn Ferry 1st Stage Qualifying at Bull Valley Golf Club in Woodbridge, Illinois for what felt about the thousandth time.

It’s hard to describe the pride I felt at seeing fellow Woburn Golf Club member and close friend Steve Lewton’s name at the top of the final leaderboard.

For the record, Steve shot 67, 71, 71 and a closing 65 for a 14-under tally of 274 to take the stage by four shots and advance to second stage which takes place at five venues between the 12-22nd this month. Steve has to negotiate another 72-hole qualifying event to reach Final Stage at The Landings Club in Savannah, Georgia 4-7 November.

Those who think the professional tours are full of people making millions of dollars only have to check out the Korn Ferry or European Challenge Tours to know that is far from the case. Steve, who won the 2014 Taiwan Masters (above) on the Asian Tour and the 2017 Philippine Open, is lucky. He was exempt into first stage and didn’t have to go Korn Ferry Pre Qualifying. Anyone with little standing has to face four 72-hole Qualifying tournaments. Talk about Q School hell. Those who make Final Stage are guaranteed a 2022 Korn Ferry Tour card, with the top 45 receiving a decent number of starts.

Here’s the thing, though: many of those going through this process are good players. Some recognisable “names” – Christoffer Bring, John Oda, Gregory Bourdy, Louis Dobbelaar – didn’t finish inside the top 19 along with Steve to advance to second stage. The talent pool is enormous on the Korn Ferry Tour, as it is on the European Challenge Tour.

I’ve played a lot of golf at Woburn with Steve to know he has the stuff to make it on the PGA Tour. He knows that too. In fact, two of his good friends, David Skinns and Callum Tarren graduated from this year’s Korn Ferry Tour and are now playing on the PGA Tour. As Steve told me recently, they’re not better golfers than him. Fine margins separate players at the top level.

Needless to say, I hope Steve can bridge those fine margins over two more qualifying stages, and I’m given two more vicarious thrills.

#JustSaying: “How would you like to meet the top 143 people at what you do each week in order to survive?” Bruce Crampton

Photograph courtesy of the Asian Tour

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