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dale whitnell

‘I did 10 years of graft without earning a dime – I know what hardship’s about’

The timeline of Dale Whitnell's career since playing in the 2009 Walker Cup says a lot about how difficult it is to thrive in the professional sphere, but the man from Colchester is now reaping the rewards of his persistence
 

Dale Whitnell’s breakthrough win on the DP World Tour finally came earlier this month after turning professional at the age of 21.

Now 34, the Englishman impressively won the Scandinavian Mixed by three shots on his 106th tour start and 14 years after his debut on the circuit.

Better late than never you might say, but at one stage, it seemed success at the elite level for Whitnell was destined to elude him despite an impressive amateur career.

The man from Colchester was England’s highest-ranked amateur and played for Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup in 2009 at Merion.

He came tied 4th in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in just his third start as a pro in the same year – but bad habits delayed his eventual success so much that he found work off the course while also playing on mini-tours.

“In 2017, a guy down the golf club – he does delivery driving and it was based on your phone location,” Whitnell told NCG. “He said ‘why don’t you do this’ because if you go into mini-tour events, you can pick up a job and drop it off and it pays for your fuel or your hotel.

“So I thought that sounded all right, so I did that for a year and a half. I saved up some money and then that’s when I went on to the Portugal pro tour and won the tour championship there. That got me a Challenge Tour invite and then I won on the Challenge Tour and got my card that year at Q-school.

“I probably thought the transition from amateur to pro would be a little bit easier. And it was probably a bit of complacency on my part, but then I’ve matured and I’ve had numerous jobs and I think coming back now, getting my card at that point, it was extremely satisfying.”

Whitnell slept on a four-shot lead after 54 holes at Ullna G&CC and despite some early scares on the 3rd and 4th, he held his nerve to secure an emotional victory. No doubt those days behind the wheel of delivery vans sprung to mind.

“Now I’ve done the hardship, hopefully I reap the rewards and, obviously, last week (in Sweden) was a huge stepping stone towards that,” he added.

“I did ten years of hard graft without really earning a dime. I know what hardship’s about with work in the real world. I’ve just been a normal person. I’m not spoon-fed like some of the people that are out here.

“It sounds cliched but I’ve never played golf for the money. Now, obviously, money makes life easier and, to play golf, I need money to go out and play tournaments. It costs money.

“There’s a point at which you go, ‘right – I need this much to be able to play for this year, next year’. I’m in a position now, especially after winning, [where] it gives me a nice cushion and two years’ worth of a guaranteed job.”

Having won the KPMG Trophy on the Challenge Tour in 2019, Whitnell finally found his feet on a consistent basis on the DP World Tour.

In subsequent years, top-fives at the Betfred British Masters and the Irish Open constituted his nearest tilts at tour glory before the most memorable week of his career so far in Sweden.

The Scandinavian Mixed doesn’t just pit men with women, but also against each other too in a special format supported by 10-time major-winning legend Annika Sorenstam.

“It’s a huge deal,” Whitnell said. “Whenever you get someone like Annika hosting, a role model for the sport, a 72-time LPGA Tour winner, it’s huge and it’s a huge honour to put my name on the trophy.

“To play with the women and against them at the same time, it’s unique and I think we should do it more often. It was thoroughly enjoyable. It was just a different atmosphere, it was awesome”

Dale Whitnell

Whitnell was on the putting green in Sweden when he first saw the news of the PGA Tour’s shock merger with the Public Investment Fund of Saudia Arabia, which also includes the formerly-named European Tour.

What this alliance will mean for the circuit on the continent is still unknown, but what is known is a pathway could be formed for LIV Golf players to reapply for the DP World Tour memberships they resigned from.

The deadline for players such as Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, and Ian Poulter to reapply for their cards in 2023 has passed but, when the time comes around again, Whitnell believes they shouldn’t necessarily be welcomed back with open arms – should any wish to return.

“I try to block it all out (politics of the tour) at the end of the day, it’s not directly affecting me at the moment,” he explained.

“So, I don’t think it really matters. At the end of the day, if I just play golf, I’ve not got a strong view. If I was honest, if I had an offer from LIV, I wouldn’t have gone anyway because I would have just stayed and played on the DP World Tour without a shadow of a doubt.

“I don’t think they should be able to just stroll back in and they’re not going to be able to, from what I understand. They’re not going to be able to play for the rest of this year.

“Because the ones that have resigned their membership, they can’t play for the rest of the year. Coming back, I don’t see a problem in them reapplying, but I feel that they should have to go back and get their card.”

NOW READ: Greg Norman to join Jay Monahan at United States Senate hearing

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dale whitnell

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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