Golf: Purgatory for field of dreamers

It's a hard world for golf's underclass as they try to catch the gravy train. Tim Glover reports

In a week when Mark O'Meara suggested that players in the Ryder Cup should be paid, the dispossessed were attempting to buy a ticket on a tortuous journey that may or may not connect with the gravy train.

The most striking thing about professional golf is that, having got it, the haves have it all. While O'Meara was being paid a substantial sum just to appear in the Lancome Trophy near Versailles (how much French perfume is he going to help to shift in Iowa?) others were paying pounds 800 each to compete in pre- qualifying for the European Tour.

At Manchester, East Sussex National, Five Lakes in Essex and Wynyard Hall near Stockton on Tees, 556 players from 28 countries competed over three days, not for their Tour cards but simply to reach the next stage in purgatory, otherwise known as the qualifying school finals, in Spain, in November. Of the 556, the leading 46 go on to Spain where they will be joined by another 130, some from another series of pre-qualifiers, supplemented by the also-rans from the regular Tour and the Challenge Tour.

Apart from anything else, these events are a nice earner for the Tour. For a start, 556 x 800 = pounds 444,800. On top of the entry fee, the players, of course, have to pay for travel and accommodation. Perhaps it was not surprising that they helped themselves to a few practice balls.

At East Sussex, a swish American-designed course near Uckfield, a sign appeared on the window of the tournament office: "One-hundred dozen practice balls have been stolen from the driving range; please return them as the situation is now critical. Any players removing balls from the range will be liable to a large fine." Spectators couldn't have taken them because there weren't any spectators.

The event cost Martin Pettigrew more than pounds 2,000. An amateur from Wellington in New Zealand, he shot 70, 69, and 75 at East Sussex where 12 players from 145 survived. Pettigrew got the 12th place but only after enduring the added ordeal of a play-off. A couple of years ago, the Royal and Ancient relaxed the rules on amateurs, allowing them to go through the qualifying process without relinquishing their amateur status.

Having had a spell as a training officer in a tax department in Wellington, followed by the Kiwi's obligatory yearning to travel - he spent more than a year hitch-hiking around the world - Pettigrew, at 31, feels the time is right to embark on a career as a professional golfer.

"I may not be that young," he said, "but there are a lot of older players running around like 20-year-olds. The great thing about golf is that age is no barrier. England is where I want to be."

Pettigrew, whose mother comes from Nottingham (his father is from Edinburgh), has been supported by the New Zealand sports foundation and this season won his country's amateur stroke-play championship and the Singapore Amateur Championship.

Richard Coughlan, a 23-year-old red-haired Irishman who played in last month's Walker Cup, cannot wait to turn professional. Coughlan, from Birr, has already signed with a management company. He failed to qualify last week (a two-stroke penalty for practising his putting on the seventh green did not help) and this week he will have a tilt at the equivalent on the US Tour. Coughlan is based in South Carolina, where he's been on a college scholarship for five years. "Given the choice, I would prefer to play on the US Tour," he said. "I love it over there."

Rhys Atkinson's problem was in finding the greens. He scored 89, 76, 78. "The first round was horrendous and I felt like dying," he said. "After that I didn't want to get out of bed but you've just got to keep trying."

Atkinson is an assistant professional at Chartham Park, East Grinstead. Aged 23, he's been a pro for 11 months and only took up the game five years ago after breaking both ankles.

As a teenager he spent most of the time playing football in Sussex with Ian Pearce, now with Blackburn Rovers, and Nicky Forster (Birmingham). "But for injury I'd have become a footballer," Atkinson said. "Golf seemed to be the safest alternative." In the final round, his father, a Lingfield shopkeeper, caddied and his girlfriend follows his progress. "I needed all the support I could get," Atkinson said. "I needed to test myself and it was an invaluable experience. I'll enter again next year."

Most of those who failed this will enter the second series of pre-qualifiers next month. But not Atkinson. A couple of club members sponsored him last week and the money has run out. "I realise," Atkinson said, "that I've got to work on parts of my game that need it - which is pretty much everything." He keeps in touch with Pearce and Forster. "I can beat them at golf," he said. "Just about."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines