'Four months after shooting a 59 I gave up the game'

The Scoop

In the first Tales From The Mini Tours blog Michael Helyard reveals his love-hate relationship with the game and the day he broke 60

Welcome to my first column where I hope to give you a genuine insight into life on the mini-tours in the UK and how I plan to get off them.

To set the scene a bit it’s probably best to give you a potted history of ‘my story’ to here. It’s quite a long story so I’ll summarise as best I can.

I had a plastic club in my hand as soon as I was walking and I started to take it seriously as around 12 when I was off seven. Two years later I had got down to scratch at Beverley and that was the first year I shot a round under par.

From 14 I started playing a lot of county and union golf and got involved in the England set-up up until I was 18.

I played for a couple of clubs in the Pennant League in Melbourne, had one year as an amateur and turned pro at 20.

Over the years I’ve been on the same Yorkshire team with Matt Fitzpatrick and played two rounds with Thomas Pieters in the British Boys. I think I actually beat him by four over the two rounds but he absolutely crunched it even at 17 so you could tell that he might be something special. The one who really stood out for me was Tom Lewis, at 14 he was far better than anyone and probably hit it as far as he does now.

Fitzpatrick and Pieters

In 2015 I shot a 59 at Beverley in 2015. It was in a roll-up comp with all the old boys. I was only one under through six and then nine under for last 12.

The last is a 150-yard par 3 and was playing downwind but all I wanted to do was hit the middle of the green. I left myself a tricky little two-putt from 25 feet and all the Tuesday crowd were surrounding the green. It was all a bit tense for a Tuesday morning but I two-putted and I think I won about £15.

Four months later I gave up the game, sending an email to Golfbidder to buy my clubs off me.

Turning pro was a tough period and harder than I thought it would be. Everything had come quite easily to me but there are a lot of good players out there and, eventually, that forced me to give up the game.

I got a ‘real job’ in London and didn’t pick up a club for 18 months. For the first six months it was great not to be playing, then we had a golf day at work and I shot something like a 64. My boss said why on earth was I not playing golf properly and that set the cogs going again.

After a while I moved back up north and started playing at The Oaks. I went back to an old coach and started practising every day and shooting some good scores.

John Cheetham from the 1836 Tour called and asked what I was up to and I played in an event at Southport & Ainsdale in April last year. It was my first competition in three years and the par-3 1st was playing really hard with the wind howling off the left. I hit the middle of the green (below) and shot 84 which was the worst score I had recorded as a pro by maybe nine shots.

Southport & Ainsdale

But my attitude was so good that I went and hit balls for two hours. The next day at Formby Hall I shot three over at Formby Hall shot one over and finished 12th.

I was up there on the order of merit for a long time but I didn’t play the last seven events as I came back from Portugal with a rare stomach disease. I was in hospital for two weeks and lost nearly three stone.

Which brings us to this season and I’m keener than ever to keep moving forward. When you go to school and think of a dream job this is it for me. I have been in that process since I was 12 and to be able to earn a living through playing is just amazing.

The key, I think, is to believe in what I do and not worry what others think and I think I can be a top-100 player in the world.

I’ve not been there or done it but I’ve played with a lot of European or PGA Tours and beaten them so you have to back yourself.

At my level it’s not a place to make money, it’s a complete stepping stone so you have to try and enjoy the process.

Part of that is my new swing coach who is George Gankas who you might know as GG Swing Tips on Twitter. I’m trying to see things from a different approach and he is really helping me. He is based in Los Angeles but a friend and fellow pro James Whitaker follows his stuff so he helps to dilute what George says and keep things as simple as we can.

Michael Helyard will represent National Club Golfer on the mini tours. You can follow his progress on social media – @MichaelHelyard on Twitter and golfmichaelhelyard on Instagram – and he plays Cobra clubs and wears Puma clothing and shoes.

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