'It is a battle between fire and frustration to keep going'
Money makes the world go round, so the old saying goes, and nowhere is that truer than in professional golf.
Play well and you get paid. Play badly and your pockets empty pretty quickly.
For those at the top of the game, it’s a world of courtesy cars, silly numbers and glamorous houses.
But if you’re fighting just to get onto the ladder, every decision you make comes with a price tag to consider.
When Joe Dean won the English Amateur in 2015 – battering Alfie Plant 9&7 in the final with a performance so comprehensive it was almost crowned with a hole-in-one – he was widely tipped to make a quick name for himself in the big leagues.
The Yorkshire player, though, has had to fight for every inch. It’s a battle he might win on Thursday on Lumine’s Lakes course at European Tour Q School.
Want to know how tough it is just to put yourself in the position to gain a seat at the top table?
Dean won Second Stage qualifying at Alicante. He then played well for three days at Lumine before the realisation of what was at stake briefly tightened the swing when the cut loomed. He made it by a shot.
“I have been at Second and Third Stage and played eight rounds of golf,” the Hillsborough pro calculated after his fourth round in Spain.
“I’ve had one round over par, I’m probably close to 20 under [overall] and I only just scraped into the last two rounds. Yeah, it’s very, very difficult.”
A grand here, a win there, Dean has spent 2018 mining the 1836 and EuroPro Tours with considerable success.
But when you think he won £20,000 on the EuroPro Tour Order of Merit this year, and only failed to cash three times in 18 1836 Tour events, you get a sense of what it costs to hit a ball round a field for a living.
For Dean, the maths have been simple. Accumulate enough cash to get to the next tournament and the next stage.
That has come with pressure.
“The financial side of it has had a massive impact on my game. At the end of the day, your goals change depending on what you can do financially.
“It decides where you can go in the off-season and where you can practise. It’s an added pressure. Some guys thrive on that and some guys don’t. Even now, I haven’t had a week where I’ve thought ‘it’s nice not to think about the money that, if I don’t play well, I have lost’.
“I’ve always been thinking ‘I need to play well. I need to make my money back’. I’ve got to eat when I go back home.”
Occasionally, when it’s not going well on the course, things can boil over. Dean’s family and friends nickname him ‘The Devil’, a light-hearted ribbing of a temperament that’s not always on an even keel.
Curbing the ‘fire’ is just another of his struggles, but this is one part of his game he doesn’t want to change.
“It’s always something that I have been fighting. Ever since I started golf, I’ve always been hot-headed, if you like. But I never want to change, and almost be too level-headed.
“I think you almost need some sort of fire in you. But, at the same time, you need to cap it at some point and not go too overboard. It is a battle between fire and frustration to keep going.”
Now the promised land of the European Tour could await.
After a 4-under 67 on day five, a round of two halves that saw him streak through his front nine before bunkering down in the face of a couple of loose shots in the second, he’s within striking distance of the top 25 and that precious card. One low number and he could well be there.
It’s going to be a big day in the Dean household.
But even if things don’t quite go to plan, just making the cut at Q School has massively improved his Challenge Tour status.
He can plan a schedule next year, rather than hoping for a late invite. It will provide welcome respite.
“I feel like I have had to do it the hard way,” he said. “There are a lot of guys I knew in national squads that have just jumped straight up into the top league and done it that way.
“The aim at the start of the week was to make the last two rounds. That target was ticked.
My goals at the start of this year:@ETQSchool 1st stage exemption ✅@PGAEuroProTour Top 5 OOM ✅
Qualify for Q School final stage ✅
Make cut at Q School final stage ✅
Earn @Challenge_Tour card ✅
Earn @EuropeanTour card ❓
2 rounds left to try and tick off my last goal ??♂️??
— Joe Dean (@joedean_golf) November 13, 2018
“It will be fantastic if I get my card but if you have a look at how many players have gone through Tour School, and gone through EuroPro straight up to the top league, they haven’t done so well.
“The guys that have done the best have had one, two or three years of Challenge Tour and then moved up.
“As nice as getting straight onto the main tour is, on the flipside, I would like to have a couple of years on the Challenge Tour just to get used to the travelling and everything else involved with it.”
He may have to settle for better.