Tara Dayer-Smith’s unusual journey to the tour

How a chance reading of Lady Golfer helped spark a new life as a professional golfer.

FEW players at Final Qualifying for the Ladies’ European Tour will have arrived in Morocco having had a 10-year break from the game.

Tara Dayer-Smith’s story is quite out of the norm from the usual route to the big stage. She gave the game up at 18, having played at county level, and only picked up her clubs again in 2008, helped in part by an article in Lady Golfer.

From a starting point of a handicap of nine she very quickly got down to three and, by the December of 2009, she had turned professional.

Her path since has again followed a different track, she was the first woman to try her hand on the men’s Jamega Tour as well as playing on the Banesto Tour in Spain and the Access Series.

She has since helped to set up a Jamega Tour for women. To give the story another twist she then fell ill towards the end of last year, missing out on another shot at tour school, and it took six months to regain something like full fitness.

In the meantime she has built up an impressive team around her – a coach, chiropractor, nutritionist, pilates expert and mind coach – who all work for nothing and all share the drive and passion to achieve the same goals. 

And it all appears to be working very nicely. At pre qualifying for Q School Dayer- Smith actually led early on before comfortably taking her place in the final stages. The big dream is a place on the LET – and by the time you read this she might well have realised this part – while, longer term, the sights are set on a place at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

The story is an inspiration to all those who think their time has been and gone and proof of where a lot of hard work, and patience, can get you. Let’s hope there’s a happy ending to it all.

How did you originally get into golf?
We had a pro come and live with us when I was 14 and he was meant to stay a few
weeks and ended up staying three years. So I ended up playing with him and ended up really enjoying it. My stepfather then gave me some coaching but I was under quite a lot of pressure and then I hit 18 and life changed a lot and I did all sorts of things.

I ran my own business and owned a 90-foot tug boat and then woke up on my 28th birthday and thought I want to pursue my dreams and try golf again.

Not many pros miss the majority of their 20s not playing, what made you change your mind?
I got a job at my local club where I was a junior at Chesfield Downs and I read an article in Lady Golfer on Melissa Reid when she was working with Sir Clive Woodward and I thought, that’s what I want to do.

I picked up a virus in Sweden and didn’t give myself a chance to recover and ended up collapsing in October. How quickly did your handicap come down?
I then met my partner, Glen, who is also a golf pro, and I set myself a target of getting down from nine to three in the next six months which I did. I then met my strategist Pauline Harrison, who used to go to college with my mum, and she put me in touch with a nutritionist, who put me in touch with my physio, and this team just grew.

I had a personal trainer and really focused on my fitness and practised every day and played a lot of amateur events in those six months. I then turned pro in December 2009 ahead of Tour School and it was obviously very tough out there.

What was the transition like from amateur to pro?
In hindsight I would have stayed as an amateur for another year and got my handicap right down and saved some money as it has taken me three years to play to scratch or under. You are playing longer courses and you don’t have a couple of shots to play with. Plus the financial side is the biggest battle, all of a sudden you have to look after yourself and make a living out of the game.

How did you get to play in the British Masters this year?
Through a lot of networking, I was at home ill for five months and I did a lot work on LinkedIn and, after a lot of work, it paid off and it was a massive honour to get in. The lesson I learnt was to spend a lot of time on the greens at an event, my putting is pretty good but I had practised so much on slower greens and I wasn’t used to The Buckinghamshire’s greens.

What exactly was the illness?
I was playing on a lot of tours and doing two part-time jobs and caring for my grandad and I picked up a couple of chest infections. I then picked up a virus in Sweden and didn’t give myself a chance to recover and ended up collapsing in October.

They diagnosed me with costochondritis which is where your ribs meet your sternum and it gets quite enflamed and is quite common in lady golfers. The doctor kept giving me antibiotics which toxicated my system and I ended up with chronic fatigue syndrome so even walking down the stairs was completely exhausting and I was out for five months.

How have you gone about making a full recovery?
This year I have been working with a homeopath and that has really helped. So I have had arnica for the tiredness so your body remembers what you have taken and then produces that. It is very gentle but slowly and cleverly rebalances your system. If you don’t listen to your body you will burn yourself out. I now need eight hours’ sleep and am in bed by 10 but I’m happy with that.

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