Gemma Clewes - chasing her dreams

Gemma Clews – chasing her dreams

Last week, as a newly minted member of Delamere Forest Golf Club, I attended a fundraising event for a fellow member, a young British international player, Gemma Clews, who is hoping to turn her dream of becoming professional into a reality in 2017.  Several thousand pounds were raised and this will go directly to, and be managed by, the England Golf Trust fund set up for her use in travelling to compete in events at home and abroad.  Talented though she is, in all likelihood, the road ahead for Gemma will not be an easy one.

It is thirty years (help!) since I was poised to take the same step and become the first Irish woman to join the Ladies’ European Tour.  In those days turning professional did not demand the same high standard of play.  A maximum of a three handicap and the ability to identify the correct dotted line and sign your name sufficed.  The landscape has really changed…..or has it?

Common to all touring professionals is their office.  It moves…and frequently….and it’s bloomin’ expensive to chase after it.  Once I’d joined the tour in 1986 at least I knew I had a tour to play on – if I could afford it.  Nowadays, those who don’t survive the rigours of Qualifying School have a raft of smaller stages on which they can try their luck to create a pathway to the Tour and a guaranteed entry into a number of events.  These smaller stages, however, tend to be in far flung places with the prize money coming from the players’ own entry fees and, therefore, the rewards are fairly small beer, barely covering expenses.  But valuable experience IS being gained.

After finding tournaments to play in, the next big, central question for the player is “can you afford it?”  This challenge hasn’t changed over the last thirty years.  It’s the reason some of my peers slept in cars and Ian Woosnam survived on eating cold baked beans out of the can for his dinner.  If you have a dream you do what it takes and resilience is key.

On one occasion when I was bemoaning my lack of a sponsor Dad told me I couldn’t expect anyone to invest in my game if I didn’t put my own money where my mouth was.  So, I got on with my part-time job of working for a golf promotion company, saved hard to fund my tournament life and spent the rest of my time working on my game as much as I could.  Elsewhere in this blog (in Mo And The Marvellous Marquesa) you can read about my lucky break in meeting a sponsor, but it certainly doesn’t happen for everyone.

Nowadays when you make it on to the Tour you may find you are ineligible for the big tournaments because of a lowly ranking and/or position on the money list.  So, welcome to the classic catch 22 situation – players above you get into the big money fields, then have a good week and move further away from you in ranking points and money lists and the gap widens.  This is not the time to consider booby-trapping the locker room – just keep working hard and remember why you’re doing this.  You do love it, don’t you?

Just what are some of the ingredients for success for Gemma and her like?  An incredible work ethic; first-class time management; a clear vision of the path that needs following to achieve designated goals; capacity for travel; resilience; an ability to score, no matter what; and wholehearted dedication.  Oh yes, and a bit of luck wouldn’t go amiss.

Success is so much more than simply beating balls

Range work is only one ingredient needed for success

We all know that very few players manage to make a living from playing but if you’ve done your homework and decided it’s for you, then, take a deep breath, Gemmas of this world, step into the exhilarating, exciting, privileged world of professional sport and give it your all.