NEXT WEEK will see the opening shots in the latest attempt to establish a new nationwide satellite golf tour.
The English Tour launches at Ryder Cup venue The Belfry and has announced a 2013 schedule which includes visits to prestigious venues on England’s Golf Coast such as West Lancashire, Hillside and Royal Birkdale.
Organisers are hoping that the list of top end courses plus the backing of 2012 Dubai Classic winner Robert Rock will offer added appeal for the country’s pro golfers in a market that has become surprisingly crowded given the lukewarm economic temperature.
Away from the riches of the European Tour, the vast majority of those golf professionals who put the emphasis on playing, rather than teaching, are left to compete for considerably lower prize money – with the pot of money available often coming from their own entrance fees.
While the second tier Challenge Tour and its feeder competition – the EuroPro Tour – offer stepping stones towards the highest level, for many players their competitive earnings will come from taking part in events organised by the Professional Golfers Association or one of a number of satellite tours.
Two of these lean heavily towards a programme in the south of the country with the freshly-launched Players Tour joining the Jamega Tour – which has branched out to offer tournaments for ladies as well – on the calendar. For those based in Merseyside and Cheshire, the North PGA regional events offer competition with fewer travelling miles while the NW Tour has now joined the 1836 Tour in delivering a mixture of events on more local courses.
The team behind the English Tour are hoping that they can establish a development series that will offer young players a route towards the higher echelons of the sport while the 36-hole format will also appeal to more established players.
The idea came from Worcestershire-based professional Duncan Carey, who has enlisted the support of PJ Ellis, a former solicitor who enjoyed a six-month spell working in Liverpool but who is now working full-time on the new venture.
“We feel there is a gap in the market for a tour offering 36 hole competitions on better courses,” explained PJ.
“I became involved about six months ago and am now one of three people working full-time on this project. We believe we have a viable business plan and while it is not a cash cow for us it will offer players the chance to develop and improve.”
An amateur tour will be launched to run alongside the professional events - “it will give top amateurs the chance to play like a professional on some fantastic courses,” adds PJ. “Robert Rock runs an academy for professionals and elite amateurs and will be sending out his stable of players to support the Tour.”
The English Tour is pledging to offer 65% of the entry fees to the prize fund, with the cash being awarded to the leading 20% of the starting field.
“The aim is to establish ourselves as a Tour the professionals want to play on and to expand the number of tournaments we offer in the years ahead,” added PJ. “We believe there is an opportunity for growth but we have to show we are credible and viable and that we run the events in the proper manner.”
The English Tour has used a social media campaign as part of its plan to establish itself as well as re-designing its website to offer a less traditional approach.
“The new website is a bit edgier,” explained PJ, “and we wanted it to be slightly different to the norm. Most of the pros are young guys and we want to appeal to them without alienating our other players.
“It might be considered a brave thing to do to launch a new Tour in the present climate but we fell we can offer something that will help young players develop. That is something we want to build on in the future.
“They aren’t making that much money and a lot have part-time jobs to help. It is every young player’s dream to become a Tiger or a Rory but with hard work and a bit of luck it is not impossible. Wouldn’t it be great if someone from The English Tour went on to make it all the way to the European Tour?”
The English Tour opens at The Belfry on March 21 with West Lancashire next up at the beginning of April.