Heavy travel schedule paying off for Brits

Not many people will connect Andrew Sullivan and the five British players in the top ten of the Official World Golf Ranking.

They should.

If you haven’t heard of Andrew Sullivan, then it isn’t surprising. The 23-year-old Englishman won the individual title in the Juan Carlos Tailhade Cup in Argentina November 14. Sullivan defeated Norway’s Espen Kofstad at the third extra playoff hole after the pair had finished tied on 281. What does Sullivan’s victory in an obscure Argentinean amateur event have to do with British success in world golf? Quite a bit, actually.

Sullivan is the latest in a long line of English players to compete in this Argentinean event. However, winning the event isn’t what’s important. Just the fact he was there is hugely significant.

Maybe one of the reasons why British golfers are having much success in world golf right now is due to the willingness of British golf administrators to send gifted young golfers like Sullivan to far-off places.

There was a time when elite British amateurs competed from April to September only. They played the traditional summer amateur schedule and then drifted back to their home clubs to play winter golf. Those days are long gone. Thanks to well-funded golf unions such as the English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh golf unions, elite British amateurs play virtually year round. When the British amateur circuit comes to an end, the golf unions, especially the English Golf Union, send elite players overseas.

In the past young British players had to deal with the culture shock of going to foreign countries, dealing with foreign languages, customs and currencies as a necessary part of on the job training when they turned professional. Nowadays they arrive on tour as seasoned world travellers. So going to play in Australia or South Africa is no big deal.

England’s Oliver Fisher turned professional when he was just 17-years-old. In his first season as a pro, he played 30 tournaments in 17 countries around the globe. Normally that would seem arduous for a teenager, but Fisher had no problems since he’d already travelled the world as an amateur on the EGU’s budget.

Ditto for Rory McIlroy, the world No. 9. His passport was already well stamped by the time he turned professional.

Additionally, more British players are taking up scholarships in the United States. Hence it’s nothing special for British golfers to play against America’s best in the pro ranks since they’ve already done it in college golf. World No. 7 Paul Casey, Luke Donald (8) and Graeme McDowell (9) all played college golf in the states.

As the results in Argentina show, it’s not just the British who are sending players abroad. Finland won the team element of the Tailhade Cup, with Norway second.

One of the reasons golf is now a global game is that more and more countries are sending players around the world to compete. It’s certainly working for the British.

• • •

The penultimate leg of the Race to Dubai is going to be tense for England’s James Morrison.

For much of the season the young Englishman has been inside Europe’s top 60 and eligible for the lucrative end of season Dubai World Championship. However, this year’s Madeira Island Open winner, playing in Hong Kong this weekend, is sitting in 61st place. He is €15,066 behind Denmark’s Soren Hansen, who occupies 60th place, and €35,662 behind number 59 Thomas Aiken.

The bad news is that Hansen has made the cut and is playing well. The good news is that Aiken failed to qualify for the last two rounds. So the task is simple: Morrison has to finish top 10 or better to realize his dream of playing in the Dubai World Championship.

• • •

Soccer manager Jose Mourinho has thrown his backing behind Portugal’s bid to stage the 2018 Ryder Cup. The boss of Spanish-side Real Madrid wants to see the match staged in his homeland in eight years’ time. Known as the “special one,” a tag Mourinho hung on himself, Portugal will be hoping he can bring some special magic to see off rival bids from France, Spain, Holland and Germany.

• • •

Speaking of bids, there are nine in place for the 2015 Solheim Cup. That’s correct: nine. Six have already announced their intentions. They are: Prosper Golf Resort in Celadna, Czech Republic; Gut Kaden Golf und Land Club, Hamburg, Germany; Sport & SPA Resort A-ROSA, Scharmutzelsee, Sporting Club Berlin, Germany; La Manga Club, Region de Murcia, Spain; and Q Hotels Forest Pines Resort, North Lincolnshire, United Kingdom.

There is also a bid from the Costa del Sol in Spain, which will allow the Ladies European Tour to select the most suitable venue in the region, as well as three other bids by interested parties who wish at this stage to remain anonymous. The winner should be announced in April 2011.

• • •

Former Tulsa player David Inglis has taken a job as an assistant coach at Northwestern University. Inglis was the outstanding Great Britain & Ireland player on the victorious 2003 GB&I team that won at Ganton, England. Inglis was a student at Tulsa University back then, and the highest ranked player in U.S. college golf.

The three-time all-American turned professional in 2004 but never found the same success in the pro game he had in amateur golf. Winner of the 2000 British Boy’s Championship, Inglis plans to regain his amateur status in a few years.

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