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  • Alistair Tait

What Hope For The Hankley Hopefuls?

Forty four excellent amateur golfers are teeing it up this week at Hankley Common Golf in the R&A Home Internationals. With the exception of those who have returned to the United States to continue their college educations, these are the crème de la crème of British and Irish amateur golf.

Aside from career amateurs like Scottish captain Matt Clark and reinstated amateur Peter O’Keeffe of Ireland, there’s more than a fair chance the majority of the rest of them have a desire to play on the European Tour. How many of them will realise that dream?

Good question.

All of them? Certainly not. The majority of them? No way. Half of them? Probably not. A quarter? Now we’re getting into maybe/perhaps territory. As I’ve wrote many times before, success in amateur golf is no guarantee of glory in the professional game. Here’s a depressing thought: maybe none in this year’s Home Internationals will taste European Tour success.

The field at heavenly Hankley (pictured) comprises players who have achieved great things in amateur golf. Laird Shepherd is the reigning Amateur Champion, having won the title at Nairn this year in arguably the greatest comeback in Amateur Championship history. Shepherd came from eight down to defeated fellow Englishman Monty Scowsill at the 38th-hole.

Sam Bairstow is the Brabazon Trophy winner, John Gough won the English Amateur, Callan Barrow the Scottish Men’s Open Championship, Zachary Chegwidden holds the South East of England Links Championship and Berkshire Trophy titles, Jack Bigham is the reigning Boys Amateur champion, Angus Carrick the Scottish Amateur champion, while Jack Dyer played in this year’s Walker Cup and Ireland’s Caolan Rafferty played in the 2019 match. And on it goes.

Yet for all these baubles, there’s a chance none of these players will make his mark in professional golf. You only have to look down the list of former winners of the Amateur, Brabazon, English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and Boys Amateur Championships to find a plethora of players who tried and failed in the professional ranks.

There are some great names in the above winners' lists. So called-can’t miss kids who missed in spectacular fashion. It would take up most of this blog to name those who were destined for greatness but never became great. Indeed, a look at names on the mini tours – Eurpro, Jamega, Clutch, Alps, etc – says it all. Many is the player on those circuits who was top dog in amateur golf but are still looking to make the step up to the European Tour.

You can’t blame those at Hankley for wanting to turn pro when you consider the vast sums our top players earn nowadays. In fact, if what I’m hearing about proposed changes to the rules of amateur status from next year is correct, then the very best amateurs will soon be making large deposits into their bank accounts.

However, what many don’t realise is there just isn’t enough room on the European Tour for all the best British and Irish golfers. Not when young French, Italian, German, Danish, Swedish, Spanish and other elite European amateurs have similar dreams. The basic Darwinian survival of the fittest dynamic that exists in professional golf, professional sports, dictates that only the best of the best make it.

Sadly, they can’t all play the European Tour. That’s why having a plan B is as important nowadays as it’s always been.

They can’t all be Rory McIlroys, Justin Roses, Paul Lawries or Ian Woosnams. That’s just a basic fact of life.

P.S. I hope all the Hankley hopefuls make it.

#JustSaying: “Young players are right to want to turn professional. They can make an awful lot of money in a very short space of time.” Tom Watson

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