Can the European Tour's latest graduates expect to have a chunk of cash behind them? We spoke to an agent to get the inside story
A few years ago a player who was pretty much unheard of at the time came through Q School to get his European Tour card. Within a few weeks he had £70,000 in his back pocket to take into his rookie season – 50k for a 10-club deal which was for the irons though he would also carry the same headcovers, a logoed bag and headwear. That left the door open for some sort of clothing deal and then there was 10k for a ball, glove and shoe deal and the same amount for his woods, albeit under some different wrapping.
At the time his manager could barely believe his luck but this was the way things seemed to be on the European Tour. The bottom line being that, once you’ve made it onto the big stage, then you’ve cracked it.
Away from the off-course business even if you fail to retain your card then there’s a good chance that, money-wise, you will have done alright for yourself – this year Jake McLeod finished 150th on the Race to Dubai and his season’s earnings came to just shy of €200,000.
The Aussie was one of 28 players who have just come through six rounds of Q School but, for many of them, it might not be a guaranteed bundle of off-course deals now that they’ve hit the big time. Things have changed.
“A few years ago it was easier to get a decent level of sponsorship from the equipment companies but with the economy as it is they’re not paying out as many players as they were. There are some great players just getting free kit deals rather than some money towards their expenses,” explained agent Dan Haughian of CHI Sports, previously he helped set up White Rose Sports Management with the Liverpool midfielder James Milner.
“For the guys who now have a card but have been bouncing around the Challenge and mini tours then hardly any would get additional sponsorship from the manufacturers from this week. At the very most it would be 20k. The equipment companies will only provide some proper sponsorship if a player gets on the tour and then stays on it. Your emails won’t be inundated by just getting through Q School.
“Another way that a player might see anything from the equipment people is if they are a very promising young lad who has been on the books and they might have a bonus structure if they get their European Tour card. At the most that would go from 25 to 80k.”
So what would be the best route for a player to take on the morning after a successful Q School?
“Speak to people who you know and those who have a few quid. You would have been thinking about it beforehand but go to some wealthy people, ideally who know the player, and try and raise some money that way.
“Some players might sign with a management company on the back of Q School, then that company has to build the profile, generate some interest and then it will be halfway through the season before they are going to see any sponsorship from it. If they can then stay on the tour then that management company will have had some time to show what they’ve done to some potential sponsors. Retaining your card is crucial.”