Why loss of PGA EuroPro Tour after 20 years could curb careers
After 20 years, the third-tier circuit set up by Matchroom Sports supremo Barry Hearn in tandem with Sandy Jones during his time as the PGA chief executive, is being scrapped at the end of the season.
The news probably won’t even have registered with most golf fans while some might claim that it provided a breeding ground for lots of players to effectively stagnate.
But the fact it was used as a springboard by both Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel to become major champions while also being where lots of others who have developed into successful tour players cut their teeth in the professional ranks says it all.
Five Challenge Tour cards have been up for grabs on the circuit and, thanks to a consistent campaign that was capped in the recent Eagle Orchid Scottish Masters at Leven, Michael Stewart will be making that step up next season.
But what is going to happen to the likes of Sam Locke and Darren Howie, both PGA EuroPro Tour card holders this year, and new professional recruits such as Rory Franssen?
Additional welcome playing opportunities for Scottish professionals have been teed up by Paul Lawrie through his brilliantly-run Tartan Pro Tour over the past couple of seasons.
Whether that can keep growing remains to be seen and Lawrie, in fairness, doesn’t need to do any more than he does at the moment.
The Clutch Tour is something similar to the Tartan Pro Tour south of the Border and, of course, other third-tier circuits in the shape of the Alps Tour and the Pro Golf Tour already exist.
The face of the professional game in the UK, though, is about to change considerably once the curtain comes down on the PGA EuroPro Tour after the climax of its upcoming Tour Championship at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland.
And, unless something similar can either be salvaged or, alternatively, something new is set up with a fresh look, then the prospect of turning professional is not going to be nearly as appealing or exciting as it has been over the past 20 years.
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