On the surface, ‘Qualifying School’ sounds quite lovely – the words would leave most people feeling hopeful and excited. It’s the chance to play a single tournament which could turn you into a professional golfer. Sign me up!
But the truth is, these two words have never really captured the other side of the coin, as brutal realities of this event have laid waste to the careers of thousands of aspiring players over the years.
It’s a rolling tally which is now multiplying exponentially before the first tee shot is even struck at the beginning of each new season, as more young players come through the amateur golf ranks seeking their shot at stardom.
Qualifying School is like no other tournament in the game. Remember when Lee Trevino famously said, ‘You don’t know what pressure is until you play for five bucks, with only two bucks in your pocket’?
When it comes to Qualifying School, it’s more like playing for the only chance you will get to secure your dream job, pay the bills and possibly even support a family one day.
This short story was inspired by reflecting on the photograph featured, of the 2020 Sunshine Tour Qualifying School graduates – illuminated by hope, yet haunted by all the event’s unwritten chapters.
Once we understand the underlying reason more than 95% of professional golfers’ careers fail, I would like us to create opportunities together.
Firstly, here are some numbers to think about, based on life as a professional golfer starting their career in South Africa:
- The average professional Tour event costs around R12,000 (travel, accommodation, caddie, food, entry fees, yardage book).
- The average Tour player enters 25 Tour events per calendar year, bringing the total spent on tournament expenses to R300,000.
- Most rookies do not have enough funding to get through their first five tournaments (approximately R60,000 in personal savings).
Almost every Tour player I know would agree to an ‘equity-based’ financial sponsorship. Meaning that you and some of your friends choose a Tour player to ‘back’ for a season (R300,000) with an agreed, nominal percentage of anything they win along the way.
This opportunity would not only be an incredible blessing for the player, but it would also provide you with the greatest feeling in the world, as you set out to create something life-changing for somebody else. Plus, you would have a vested interest (and VIP tickets) to cheer on your player as they come down the stretch at the next SA Open.
I am writing this now, because memories of my professional golf journey of 15 years flicker back and forth in the rearview mirror. Since my last full season on Tour, I have been blessed to have been able to build a business which provides a quality life for my young family, so my answer to your question is ‘Yes’ … I will certainly join you in finding (and funding) a young player who deserves a chance at chasing down the stars and then becoming one.
– Reach out to me on [email protected] for more information as we put together a group of like-minded people and back the next rising star.
– This column first appeared in the December 2021 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!