- Alistair Tait
The golf on display this week at Woodhall Spa is a reminder that pedigree counts in this game. The best amateur junior boys and junior girls, the best women from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are competing against each other in the R&A Home Internationals. The standard is impressive.
Most of them, 28 women, 24 girls and 32 boys are probably dreaming of making it on the European Tour and Ladies European Tour, of winning majors, playing in Ryder and Solheim Cups. England Women’s Home Internationals captain Jennifer Henderson put this week’s contest into perspective in the bigger scheme of things when she said:
“All we ask for at this level is developmental opportunities. These girls are getting great chances to experience big moments, big shots, big putts, and all players are getting those moments this week which is fantastic to see.”
It is. Henderson’s seven-strong team is arguably the strongest of the four nations. As this blog is being written, her team is on course to win the Home Internationals for the second consecutive time, albeit a strong Ireland team could edge England today for the title.
The sad fact is, not all of Henderson’s players are guaranteed to make it on the LET. Hopefully all do, but you’d get great odds on that not happening
It begs the question, what chance for those who don’t come through the developmental programmes of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales of finding professional success if the attrition rate is so high among those who have represented their country?
Slim to none is the answer.
Players who have never even come close to playing for their country turn pro every year. They think that because they’ve won the club championship, maybe had a wee bit of success in county golf, they’re suddenly going to morph into Rory McIlroy overnight.
Quite why they think they’ll do in professional golf what they couldn’t do in the amateur game – match the skills of those who’ve played at the highest level – is a complete mystery.
The mini tours are full of players who represented their countries in amateur golf, who won important tournaments, but who are struggling to find a foothold on the LET and European Tour. Those same mini tour circuits feature players with absolutely no pedigree whatsoever. What they don’t realise is, pedigree counts. Many have no idea just how good the world’s best really are. It can come as a shock to the system when they realise the gulf between them and even journeyman pros, never mind multiple tour winners.
Ian Poulter and Paul Lawrie are examples of players who never featured in elite amateur golf, but who went on to great success in the professional game. Both turned pro off handicaps of four. They are anomalies because that just wouldn’t happen today. There are players turning professional off plus four these days who don’t make the grade.
Nothing wrong with dreaming. That club champion who works hard and gives it a go is to be congratulated. At least they tried to realise their dream. They won’t reach their dotage and wonder: what if?
Hopefully those who do turn professional have something to fall back on when they fail. Sadly, that’s not often the case. As Peter Jacobsen once said, “the streets of Chicago are full of first round leaders.” And the mini tours are replete with players who’ll never make the grade, many who had no amateur pedigree whatsoever.
#JustSaying: “I shot 79 in the first round (of the Swiss Open) playing with Andrew Murray and a Swiss amateur, and 68 the next day to miss the cut by eight. I thought: ‘What is this all about?’ I got on a plane and came home having spent nearly £2,000 in the process. I decided this was not for me. I was going to ask for my amateur status back but my dad talked me out of it.” Colin Montgomerie