ARDMORE, Pa. – The road to glory? Or the road to nowhere?
What does playing in the Walker Cup mean to the 20 players here at Merion this week? Will it lead to success, or will they end up on professional golf’s scrapheap?
Sorry to sound as if I’m sitting on the fence, but the answer is some will succeed and some are doomed to spend the rest of their lives in obscurity playing mini-tour golf.
GB&I teams over recent years are living proof that a Walker Cup spot doesn’t guarantee success in the pro ranks. Take the 2007 GB&I team, for starters.
Of the 10 GB&I players who teed it up at Royal County Down, only three of the nine who turned pro have full European Tour cards: Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett and David Horsey. The other six are playing their trade on the European Challenge Tour and other mini tours in Great Britain.
Jamie Moul spent several weeks as the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur, according to the R & A’s World Amateur Ranking. Two years later and Moul is 73rd on the European Challenge Tour. Lloyd Saltman is 105th, Jonathan Caldwell 133rd and Welshman Llewellyn Matthews is nowhere to be seen.
Rhys Davies is guaranteed a European Tour card for next season. He is 6th on the Challenge Tour. John Parry is close at 24th.
Going back to 2005 and only Oliver Fisher, Robert Dinwiddie, Richie Ramsay and Gary Lockerbie hold full European Tour cards. All are struggling to hold onto their cards for next season.
The 2003 GB&I team is a more salutary lesson for anyone who thinks a Walker Cup berth is going to lead to success in the professional ranks. Only Oliver Wilson of that GB&I squad has found success as a pro. The others who turned professional have bombed.
Scotland’s David Inglis looked like the can’t-miss kid at Ganton. He was college golf’s No. 1-ranked player when he was at Tulsa. Six years later and Inglis is not playing on any professional tour of any note anywhere in the world.
Michael Skelton, Noel Fox, Colm Moriarty and Stuart Manley also turned pro but you’ll find the latter three playing the Challenge Tour while Skelton has joined Inglis and gone underground.
I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the drift.
It comes down to a simple Darwinian case of survival of the fittest. Some will make it and some will never be heard from again.
Not that this year’s Walker Cuppers will hear any of the above from the management companies trying to sign them up on Sunday night. The moneymen will only paint a rosy picture of $ and £ signs. These are the same moneymen who will ditch these kids like old underwear if they fail to make the grade after three years.
If history proves anything, then every player here should have a Plan B in case they fail.
Sadly, most can’t see the flip side. That’s why three, four, five years from now we will see names from this match joining Walker Cup alumni on the mini tours.