‘A top 10 doesn’t guarantee anything – I'll be playing to win’
Unless your name is Chris Lloyd there is little guaranteed as the EuroPro Tour heads into its Tour Championship at Amendoeira.
On Tuesday 58 of the top 60 hopefuls will tee it up in Portugal with the prospect of a place on the Challenge Tour on the line, another step closer to the golden ticket of the European Tour.
At the end of the three rounds five players will punch their tickets to the next phase of their development and, as things stand, Nick Marsh is in one of those treasured spots.
The Huddersfield player is currently third on the standings but is well aware that, with double points and pounds on offer, things can quickly change. Only last year Peter Tarver-Jones came thundering through the field with a closing 63 to win the £20,000 winner’s cheque and vault from nowhere into 2nd on the money list.
“People have been saying everything to me – that I’ve already got my card sewn up or that I could end up doing nothing. I just want to go there and play well and see what happens. A lot can change so I have to focus on a high finish,” Marsh told NCG.
“I sat down with my dad and we thought a top 10 would be enough to keep me in the top five but I’m playing well so I’ll be trying to win.”
The last two years the Tour Championship has been held at Desert Springs in Spain. This year should provide a different proposition with the Faldo-designed Amendoeira taking centre stage.
“Desert Springs isn’t a tough course, it’s short and tight and the par 5s are reachable so you could see a low score there. Amendoeira is a strong course, typical Faldo, it’s fairly wide but quite long with undulating and large greens and big bunkers. It might get really windy so it could be quite tricky.”
To have a chance of getting off the Tour you pretty much have to win at least once – the prize breakdown on a regular week is £10,000 for 1st, £6,000 for 2nd and £3,000 for 3rd.
The other members of the top five are Lloyd who leads from Korea’s Min Kyu Kim, who made EuroPro history by winning a tournament at just 16. He then won the following week as well.
In fourth is Jonny Caldwell, one-time Walker Cup partner of Rory McIlroy, and then there is James Adams, another multiple winner in just six starts.
Marsh’s victory came at Longhirst Hall in Northumberland in July. Having only dropped three shots in his first two rounds to have a share of the lead he then had four bogeys and a double, offset by four birdies, when he came to the last.
“I wasn’t playing great. I bogeyed 15 and 16 and then lipped out on 17 for a birdie. My mum then told me playing the 18th that I needed a birdie to win.
“It’s not a long hole but had a tricky pin so I hit 3-wood to leave 100 yards. I hit that to three feet and she then told me that I needed a birdie for a play-off! That then became a six-footer but I knocked it in.”
Four holes later he made another birdie at 18 to edge past Ireland’s Brendan McCarroll for his first victory at this level.
Along with the win there have also been six other top 10s in just 12 starts in another season of to make it another season of progress for the 23-year-old.
“Every year I try and get better and, fingers crossed, I will keep moving forward. I keep stats on my phone and they are better than last year.”
Marsh was part of the Walker Cup squad for Lytham in 2015 but, as he candidly points out, he didn’t do enough to impress the selectors.
After missing out the 2014 English Amateur champion took some time off to work on his game before joining the paid ranks.
“I’ve done really well this year so I’m OK financially, for others it’s hard. A couple of companies have helped me out which has meant that I have had a full-time caddie and I wouldn’t have been able to do without the help.
“The standard is definitely getting better. This is only my second year but this year we had a cut at 5 under and a winning score of 20 under over the three rounds.”
The star of this season has been undoubtedly Bristolian Lloyd who has three wins to his name. A fourth victory, which has never happened in the history of the Tour, would give him an incredible £250,000 bonus.
“It would be phenomenal, I’ve played with Chris a few times and he’s a great player and a good lad, he could definitely do it. The insurance company might be a bit nervous if he gets into contention!”
The EuroPro Tour Race to Amendoeira leaders
- Chris Lloyd £37,695
- Min Kyu Kim £25,880
- Nick Marsh £23,330
- Jonathan Caldwell £21,262
- James Adams £20,430
- Neil Raymond £17,650
- Dermot McElroy £16,522
- Sam Robertshawe £15,136
- Jonathan Thomson £14,310
- Niall Kearney £12,298