Meet England's top amateurs searching for Brabazon glory
The best amateurs from around the globe have gathered at Alwoodley this week for the Brabazon Trophy – the English Amateur Strokeplay Championship – and one of the game’s most sought-after prizes.
Sandy Lyle is a two-time winner and, to demonstrate the overseas flavour, Charl Schwartzel won the Brabazon Trophy at Deal in 2002.
We sat down with the English quartet – Ben Jones, Tom Plumb, Tom Sloman and Bailey Gill (left to right as pictured) – who recently won the European Nations Cup at Sotogrande, beating second-placed Netherlands by eight shots. Sloman won the individual title.
The quartet were at Alwoodley for an England Golf training session and to see the Leeds course ahead of next week’s Brabazon Trophy.
Jones, 19, is from Northants County; Plumb, also 19, plays out of Yeovil; Sloman, 21, is from Taunton & Pickeridge; and Gill, also 21, plays out of Lindrick.
Their handicaps range from +4 to +4.6, by the way.
What’s great about being an elite amateur?
Gill: Earlier this year we were in Australia in January for four weeks. I started working with Graham Walker before England and I now also have lessons with Mike Kanski for my putting.
So being in the England set-up I spend more time with them which is really good. And Danny Willett’s former physio Paul Farquharson looks after us so the support is amazing.
We have to keep our stats and do them for every tournament round so it’s really prep and we get given every opportunity before turning pro.
Jones: You can pick and choose the great courses if you’ve got a good ranking, as a pro if you get in the field then you go and play unless you’re in the top few in the world.
Sloman: I realise that we’re very spoilt by the quality of where we play. England Golf pay our expenses for the year. This year I’m hoping to go to America in July to play a few over there like the US, Western and South Pacific Amateurs if I can get down low enough in the world.
What are your plans for turning pro?
Plumb: I’m still young. If I didn’t make the Walker Cup I would wait until 2021 and try and make that team. If I made it this year then I would probably turn pro this year. It gives you a good start into pro golf in terms of starts.
Gill: The focus is on my amateur career this summer and go to Q School at the end of the year. Last year I put too much pressure on myself. It’s difficult not to get too excited at times but you have to stay grounded.
If I’m selected for the Walker Cup then great but I’m trying to focus on the next tournament.
I didn’t do Q School last year as it was very expensive and if you don’t feel that your game’s not quite there then you’re not ready to turn pro.
Jones: Hopefully at the end of the year. The sooner the better really though I’ve got time on my hands. It will be all about how I’m performing, if you’re not performing well enough to earn your living then you can play a better schedule remaining an amateur.
The Walker Cup wouldn’t be a huge factor in turning pro, it’s another box to try and tick if that is on your agenda. It would be nice but the best thing I could do this year would be to win tournaments.
Sloman: I did Q School last year and didn’t make it through. I’ll wait for the Walker Cup and try and get in that and then turn pro in September. A few turned pro the week after the 2017 matches so I’ll likely do that.
Have you got a plan if the playing side doesn’t work out?
Gill: I’ve no real back-up plan other than having done my A-levels which were media, ICT and product design. My dad is the motors editor for The Sun.
I wouldn’t mind coaching but there are too many qualifications to be a PGA pro.
Jones: Being a club pro may be an option but I’m not sure how much I’d enjoy it. You could still make it as a teaching pro which would be good.
Plumb: I could coach. I’ve done a carpentry apprenticeship so I have a trade to fall back on but staying in golf would be ideal. Since I was a kid I have wanted to make a living out of playing golf.
Sloman: I can’t see myself being in a shop, I’d like to think that I could make some sort of living playing golf.
Events like the Brabazon Trophy are a big deal but what do you think you’d be like playing for money and being left to your own devices?
Jones: It’s something that you’ve got to do if you’re going to be a pro, now you’re just spending. You might get a sudden burst of form and want to ride it so I’m not sure it’s that big a decision to make as every lad in the squad will turn pro and hopefully do well in something.
I played in some American events last year and I like being away. You do get to know a lot of people and a lot of players would be turning pro at the same time.
Gill: I think I’d be quite comfortable playing as a pro. I feel more ready now than last year, you can never know for sure but if you can still get some decent results playing then that badly says a lot. It’s been my dream since I was about 12 or 13.
Plumb: I imagine it could be very lonely. My friend has just done it and he says that. Sloman has been dating my sister for the last three years so we’ve been travelling together for the last two years and are good mates so that would hopefully continue.
Sloman: I think I’d be better playing for money. I don’t know why I say that but I think I could do alright. I don’t mind being away from home and I imagine it would be the same as a pro if you’re doing alright.
Have you considered anything like management or such like?
Jones: I have thought briefly about management and all that and I know a few people on a friends level rather than a business level so I have a few contacts which might be helpful.
Plumb: I’ve not looked into it all. It’s all come so fast so I’ve not really sat down and thought about anything. It might be a big chat in the next six months.
I’ll try Q School at the end of the year and, if that doesn’t work out, then I’ll go the EuroPro route.
Sloman: I’m involved with a company, Golfing4Life, who are trying to turn into a management company so I might see where that gets me.
All images courtesy of Leaderboard Photography. For more information on the Brabazon Trophy, visit the England Golf website.