In in his day, Peter Alliss used to say that one had to be a world-beater just to make a comfortable living playing tournament golf. He painted a less than rosy picture of a few skinny money trees scattered about that one might raid from time to time.
There’s no doubt the all-exempt tours have made the life of a top pro more secure and stable. These days there are ‘orchards of money trees’ but access to them is beyond the impregnable exclusion walls of exempt tour status. But, what about the thousands of ‘starving’ pros locked out of the orchard and making do with a few blackberries earned by the roadside?
That the European Tour has been ‘saved’ by the advent of the DPW World Tour and a large injection of money from a completely new source is very good news and just in time to stave off the prospect of Europe’s best players being enticed away to play in Asia. With plenty of ‘new money’ sloshing about, is it too much to hope that some might trickle down to the Challenge Tour and beyond?
Professional golf is the ultimate meritocracy but, there is one colossal flaw. Why is it that so many who clearly merit at least the occasional opportunity to play for the big purses are never given the chance to do so? While it’s understandable that pro golfers would want to protect their positions, it also demonstrates their short memories. The harsh treatment of others with similar ambitions by adopting a closed shop mentality is why I am so passionate about promoting the Monday qualifying option for ALL pro events.
With a severely limited and curtailed schedule, Niall Kearney was on the edge of securing an all-exempt ET/DPW card automatically for several months this year but time after time he was denied the opportunity to tee it up and get himself ‘over the line’. Kearney’s dilemma is just one example. Not only would a Monday Qualifier be an exciting and lucrative addition for the Tour’s coffers, it would make the game more interesting, more open, and fairer.
The problem is there are too many all-exempt cards and the guys with them keep the door shut tight via exclusionary rules rather than by stellar play that is clearly better than what you will find on the second and third tier tours. Forty years ago only the top-60 had full-playing rights whereas nowadays you could fill the field twice over every week if everybody entitled to play turned up.
No qualifying school in recent years is also a restriction of opportunity as far as ambitious outsiders are concerned. Especially when one is reminded that for twenty years before the even more competitive and wealthy PGA Tour stopped holding its Tour School in favour of giving cards to a specified number of Korn Ferry players, there was only one year when at least one Tour School graduate failed to win on the PGA Tour.
What the pro tours need is more cohesion from top to bottom. Rather than ‘scatterings’ of so-called third tier tours all over the place, a proper ‘official’ Premiership, Championship and Division One format would be preferable and more transparent, especially if there was promotion and relegation of say, 25-players each year with enough money on offer in the third tier for the top-25 to at least be able to pay their way?
It may sound like Utopia when it is a sad fact of life that the will to open the door to share the orchard just a little is not present (probably never was and never will be) in spite of there being more than enough apples to go around. For professional golf tours to work more fairly, aspiring pros must be given more chances to work their way upwards in a structured system that would also include Monday qualifiers.