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  • Alistair Tait

Where dreams are nurtured or destroyed

An interesting contrast is being played out this week in the world of European professional golf. While Europe’s elite play for pots of money, the minnows are dreaming of joining the gravy train.

There is $7 million up for grabs in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Meanwhile, the wannabees are hoping to just to get a foot on the ladder via the PGA EuroPro Tour 2021 Qualifying School. This week sees the final three stages of five of the First Stage of Q School. Yes, first stage. Final Stage takes place next week at Studley Wood and The Oxfordshire Golf Clubs.

For the record, Englishman David Hague was one of 29 players to progress to Final Stage after winning the Mannings Heath event. Fellow Englishman Harrison Proos took the honours at Formby Hall along with another 27 hopefuls. Donnington Grove, Luton Hoo and The Players Club will be where others see their dreams nurtured or destroyed.

Hague fired rounds of 67 and 68 to win Mannings Heath. Proos shot 69 and 67. Both players won by four shots. Proos is still an amateur and so missed out on the same princely sum of £300 as Hague earned. Scotland’s John Henry finished second and picked up the first-place prize, money that will hardly cover his petrol, lodgings and sustenance.

Danny Willett took home €1,056,661 for winning last year’s BMW PGA Championship. Andy Sullivan earned €9,501 for finishing last.

There’s the reason so many are queueing up to play on the EuroPro Tour. Who can blame them when the European Tour is offering that sort of money for hitting a little white ball around green and pleasant fields?

Tyrrell Hatton, Aaron Rai and Ian Poulter are proof players such as Hague, Proos and others can use the EuroPro Tour as a stepping stone to success. Hatton won the 2012 EuroPro Tour Qualifying School. He now has four European Tour wins, played in the 2018 Ryder Cup and has €13,385,405.39 in career earnings.

Rai played the EuroPro Tour in 2016. He won last week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, and with it a cheque for just under €1 million. Poulter served his apprenticeship on the old MasterCard Tour, the forerunner to the EuroPro Tour. No need to spell out his career earnings or go over his CV. A look at his fleet of high performance cars is enough to get most scrapping for a EuroPro Tour card salivating.

Of course, most of those who miss out at first stage are kidding themselves. Scores in the 80s and high 70s are commonplace. Time for a serious chat with yourself if you’re struggling to break 80 at the first hurdle of your professional career.

How many of those who come through EuroPro Q School will one day actually tee it up at Wentworth in the European Tour’s flagship event? Not many, if any. But well done to all those for trying. No point living for the rest of your life wondering what if.

#JustSaying: “Qualifying school is a first awakening to the enormous odds against them in the profession they have chosen. For others, it is a final, failing grade.” Thomas Boswell

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