The never-ending circus...
“We can cram three more in here,” said one of the pros.
After the Pro-Am at the Challenge Tour’s final event in Oman we were all piling into a small minibus to go back to the hotel.
There were players with their bags, caddies, tour staff, cameramen and basically anyone else working on the event, all piling in a minibus driven by a local with horrific clutch control.
If golf tours are a travelling circus this was the equivalent of getting an elephant into a Mini!
This is the stuff you don’t see on television.
The super talent who has to make it?
If you hear that someone is a golf professional your first thought is loads of money, glamorous venues basked in sunshine and a tranquil life just hitting golf balls about.
Now I’m far from comparing piling in a minibus to working in a factory or whatever else but to compare professions you need to know the full story.
I played the scenic Al-Mouj course with 22-year old Englishman Max Orrin who is striving for a full European Tour card this week and needs to jump just four places in the rankings.
Max has played between the two tours in his fledgling career but strikes the ball like an absolute dream, it really is something special. It makes the scratch golfer at your golf club look like a hacker... it’s that good.
But in the final event of the year the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final there are 45 other players just like him, all of whom have a chance of that elusive tour card next year.
For someone it will come down to a putt on 18 and a few euros. It really is the ultimate in sport, huge competition but even more than this, it's playing for your livelihood and it's a pure meritocracy.
But these guys have huge costs.
This week as it is the grand final they are being sorted out in a nice hotel but this is not normal.
Add in the costs of travel to the random destinations on the Challenge Tour and only a couple will be breaking even as a 'business'.
And like any of us, no matter how confident we are, these worries can make you question what you’re doing.
These guys might have sponsorship backing or even family support but this can only last so long before the money simply runs out and they’d simply have to do something else. It won’t matter if they can split a fairway 330-yards if they have to get a ‘normal job’.
The finest of lines...
So the pressure to perform is huge and it is now.
A good week here and Max secures his European Tour card and can easily go on and win early in the season and his career can skyrocket. Everything is a pure meritocracy.
The list of names or alumni who have done this aren’t hard to find...
Stenson, Pieters, Beef, Cabrera-Bello, Hatton, Grace and Kaymer are all Challenge Tour alumni and have all gone on to live the dream. They’d have all at one time squeezed on that minibus with their clubs in the dark.
But the list of guys who haven't made it are impossible to find.
As golfers they are forgotten.
And when you have dedicated a quarter of your life to something the polarisation between huge success and failure, or just nothingness, is a massive and scary thought.
Going to work each day knowing how fine the lines are between the riches, opportunity and super-stardom of the big time and perhaps having to give up the game you love.
What other jobs have that? It really is the weirdest job I've ever seen!
So whatever job you do... you've got to say fair play to the guy who has the balls to hole that slippery downhiller on 18 knowing what is at stake!
I'm the Managing Editor at The Club. I like putting and Rioja. I dislike my low slice.