Have you ever thought this to yourself "I bet if I just quite my job and played golf all day, I could probably make it on the PGA Tour?" Yeah, I played Torrey Pines once and shot a 74. Yeah sure, I just need to hole a couple more putts and hello US Open! How hard can it be?
Here to share his story as an aspiring pro, we have a very special guest on the PJKoenig golf blog, Paul Bradshaw! Paul hit his first golf shot at the age of 5, and from that point on was immediately hooked. He went on to become one of the leading amateurs in South Africa, securing a full golf scholarship with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Turning professional in 2004, Paul played extensively on the Sunshine Tour and co-sanctioned European Tour events.
Today Paul works for a major golf retailer in South Africa and operates his passion project, Golf Assessor. Below you will find Paul's story, you can also find out more about Paul at www.golfassessor.com.
People think the life of a touring professional is all bells and whistles. Trust me on this one – if you’re a journeyman, it’s definitely not.
I turned professional in 2004 after attending the University of Arkansas on a golf scholarship for a couple years. And ‘excited’ was an understatement. I couldn’t wait to get started on what would be a great learning curve and journey filled with ups and downs.
Being from Cape Town, South Africa I chose to tackle the Sunshine Tour first. So many players have used it as a stepping stone through their careers such as Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, John Daly, Tom Lehman, Lee Westwood to name but a few. A tour that has a good number of events each year with a handful of them co-sanctioned by the European Tour having purses of $750 000 at that point in time.
The first tournament I played I fired rounds of 73-70 and missed the cut by one stroke. Welcome to life as a touring professional! Being only my first event though and being hugely confident in the early stages of my career, I wasn’t phased. Plenty more events coming up.
My second event was the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek and also a European Tour event. I was staying 50 minutes away from the course that week (because the course is in the middle of nowhere) and I still had a private courtesy car pick me up and take me through to the course each day. Free food and drink before and after each round in the clubhouse. Manufacturers on the range letting you test clubs and if you’re happy with them – they’re yours. Four dozen balls for the tournament, 4 gloves and 3 caps. How does anyone even use that many balls in 4 months never mind 4 rounds!!? It was somewhat of a whirlwind that was oh so enjoyable.
A tough course and I opened with rounds of 71-73. Coming into the scorer’s tent after the round I honestly felt as though my score wasn’t good enough and I had missed the cut. Well, turns out I made the cut by 5 strokes. Easy Game!
Third round I was paired with Tim Clark and final round paired with Francesco Molinari (his first ever event as a professional and now he’s gone on to make millions of Dollars). I didn’t finish the event off as well as I’d liked, but I finished in a tie for 48 th and made $3 000 for my efforts. As a 21 year old I thought to myself “I can get used to this earning decently and not even playing my best too!”
Fast forward 6 months and 8 events later. I missed a few cuts and now the co-sanctioned events were over meaning tournament prize money purses were back to peanuts. Events where you make the cut, but unfortunately still don’t make enough money to cover your costs for the week. One three round event during the winter tour I carded rounds of 71-69- 70 to finish 6 under and T7th. I made a whopping $750. On the Sunshine Tour. A Top 10 finish. My expenses for the week came to $500 so I recorded a profit of $250. That’s when I started realizing that this is a whole lot more difficult than people think.
The general public see the bigger names earnings hundreds of thousands if not millions of Dollars, but don’t necessarily understand that they are the huge minority of professionals that don’t have to worry about money ever again and are just chasing victories. As for the rest of us, it is tough!
Don’t get me wrong though – if you are talented and driven (keyword ‘driven’ there!) then you may just take advantage of windows of opportunity and make a successful career of it. Look at guys like Ian Poulter, he was a very average amateur who struggled to even break 70. He isn’t a great ball striker at all and stats and other players will vouch for that. However, he’s made a killing from golf and drives a couple Ferarri’s, has a mansion in Florida and never has to worry about money again.
I take my hat off to the guys that have plugged away for hours on the range for years and years and finally succeeded by winning a tournament or securing playing rights or whatever it may be. It is tough on you mentally and it’s amazing how professional golf can sift out the stayers and the ones that fall away. It takes a toll on you mentally especially if you’ve missed a number of cuts in a row. That’s why players like Justin Rose I have immense respect for and should all of you. He missed 21 cuts in a row as a professional after finishing T4th at the 1998 Open Championship as an amateur. If that was me I don’t think would’ve ever been able to recover. But he did. And now he’s ranked 9 th in the world as of 10 April 2017. Absolutely phenomenal.
All I can say is when watching your next PGA Tour event, take note of the adverts in between footage. Because the PGA Tour’s slogan is oh so right – “These Guys Are Good”.