Not many people will connect Andrew Sullivan and the five British players in the top 10 of the world golf rankings.
If you haven’t heard of Andrew Sullivan, it isn’t surprising. The 23-year-old Englishman won the individual title in the Juan Carlos Tailhade Cup in Argentina Nov. 14. Sullivan defeated Norway’s Espen Kofstad at the third extra playoff hole after the pair had finished tied at 281.
What does Sullivan’s victory in an obscure amateur event in Argentina 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 English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh golf unions, elite British amateurs play virtually year-round. When the British amateur circuit ends, golf unions, especially the English Golf Union, send top players overseas.
In the past, young British players had to deal with the culture shock of going to othercountries, dealing with foreign languages, customs and currencies as a necessary part of on-the-job training. Nowadays, they arrive on pro tours as seasoned world travelers.
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 traveled the world as an amateur on the EGU’s budget.
Ditto for world No. 9 Rory McIlroy. His passport was already well stamped by the time he turned professional.
Additionally, more British players are taking up scholarships in the United States. World No. 7 Paul Casey, Luke Donald (8) and Graeme McDowell (9) all played American college golf.
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. This week Sullivan stuck around to compete in the Argentine Amateur Championship, along with other Europeans who played in the Tailhade Cup.
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.