HAVE CLUBS WILL TRAVEL

As a suc­cess­ful young amateur, Dale Brandt-Richards heard the sto­ries of the riches await­ing tour­ing pros mak­ing it onto one of the world’s big tours. That dream re­mains alive as he grinds out a week-to-week ex­is­tence play­ing Aus­tralia’s Pro-am cir­cuits.

Golf Australia - - IN MY OPINION - WORDS JIMMY EMANUEL PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BREN­DAN JAMES

In the fledg­ling days of the US PGA Tour, the likes of Ben Ho­gan, By­ron Nel­son and Sam Snead trav­elled by car from city to city play­ing for small change and work­ing as a club pro in their time away from com­pe­ti­tion to sub­sidise their play­ing ca­reers. In the mod­ern age, pri­vate jets have taken the places of cars on the world’s big­gest tour, and a player for­tu­nate enough to win on the PGA Tour is now an in­stant millionaire. And while the PGA Tour may have come a long way, there re­mains many pro­fes­sional golfers around the world trav­el­ling, some still mostly by car, from tour­na­ment to tour­na­ment hop­ing to make enough money to be able to a ord to tee it up the fol­low­ing week and per­haps be one of the for­tu­nate ones to forge a ca­reer play­ing the game they love.

The var­i­ous Pro-am cir­cuits around Aus­tralia o er one of the great­est il­lus­tra­tions of this other side of pro­fes­sional golf, with tour­na­ments held far and wide across the na­tion. Play­ers will­ing to travel and play golf in re­mote places where you might not ex­pect to find a golf course, let alone a pro­fes­sional tour­na­ment, can eke out a liv­ing play­ing a mix of be­tween one- and four-day events. In most cases, they are of­ten part­nered with club mem­bers and spon­sors rather than

fel­low pro­fes­sion­als.

Dale Brandt-Richards is one such player. He was a Pro-am cir­cuit rookie in 2016 and he set out to tra­verse Aus­tralia, and the world, with a will­ing­ness to tee it up any­where there was prize­money on oer.

Af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult at qual­i­fy­ing school earned him lim­ited sta­tus for 2016, Brandt-Richards was de­ter­mined to earn full play­ing rights on the main Aus­tralasian Tour for this year. His mind­set was he was will­ing to go wher­ever he had to in his bid to earn a crust.

“If I saw an en­ve­lope and it had cash in it I’d go to the open­ing of it so I could get a lit­tle piece of it,” joked Brandt-Richards of his sched­ule and plan­ning in 2016. The 27-year-old New South Welsh­man spent eight months of the calendar year away from home in 2016, trav­el­ling 80,000km by plane and more than 13,000km by car to com­pete in six Aus­tralian states and ter­ri­to­ries as well as six dier­ent coun­tries for a to­tal prize pool of $6 mil­lion. Af­ter eight months of toil, Brandt-Richards won about 0.88 per­cent of the booty, which equates to $53,000.

And he doesn’t re­gret one mo­ment.

Brandt-Richards, known as ‘DBR’ amongst his fel­low pros, cer­tainly doesn’t be­moan his life of trav­el­ling far and wide play­ing golf for a liv­ing, but ad­mits there were times dur­ing his 82 Proam rounds and 38 tour­na­ment rounds where he couldn’t help but feel en­vi­ous of his fel­low Aus­tralians play­ing in big­ger events abroad. One such time was dur­ing the Western Aus­tralian Pro-am swing, which had ar­rived at Port Head­land Golf Club, renowned for its sand greens. The US Open was tak­ing place at the sto­ried Oak­mont course in Penn­syl­va­nia the same week. The Port Hed­land tour­na­ment was the first-time Brandt-Richards had seen, let alone played, on the unique and tricky sand putting sur­faces. The young Aussie re­calls think­ing at the time, “I’m in the out­back play­ing for $30,000 for three days and the US Open is on in Oak­mont, play­ing for $10 mil­lion.”

By his cal­cu­la­tions, a 65th place at Oak­mont earned a player the en­tirety of the prize­money avail­able at Port Hed­land, but Brandt-Richards was quick to com­ple­ment the event and course, where he fin­ished fifth.

“I’m at a level and they’re (US Open play­ers) at an­other level, so you have to ac­cept where you are, but I will never for­get that,” Brandt-Richards said of the ex­treme jux­ta­po­si­tion of the two tour­na­ments.

The rookie’s ac­cep­tance of where he was in golf’s peck­ing or­der, and adapt­abil­ity to travel and play dier­ent cour­ses, held him in good stead through­out the year. Brandt-Richards fin­ished the year in fourth place on the 2016 Pro-Am Or­der Of Merit and earned a nom­i­na­tion for the PGA’s Rookie of the Year for both Queens­land and NSW/ACT. He was suc­cess­ful in tak­ing out the Queens­land sec­tion’s hon­our.

Brandt-Richards found the sun­shine state to his lik­ing, fin­ish­ing in a tie for third at the 2016 Queens­land Open, which proved to be his best fin­ish of the year in a four-round event. The 27-year-old’s will­ing­ness to travel also saw him grab a top-10 fin­ish in New Cale­do­nia, while he gained valu­able big event ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing two events on South Africa’s Sun­shine Tour.

He ac­knowl­edges the travel he ex­pe­ri­enced play­ing ju­nior tour­na­ments while grow­ing up at South West Rocks on the New South Wales

mid-north coast, helped pre­pare him for life on the road as a tour­ing pro. “My mum used to drive me down to Bathurst ev­ery year from South West Rocks, which is eight hours down eight hours back,” he said. “…we used to do that over a week­end so I guess you get used to trav­el­ling long dis­tances.”

His com­fort with travel saw him en­joy and be­gin to thrive in the most re­mote places, be­com­ing some­thing of an out­back spe­cial­ist in places like re­gional Western Aus­tralia and the Top End.

Now based in Sydney, Brandt-Richards saw more of the coun­try than he ever did as a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive play­ing amateur golf for New South Wales, but ad­mits there are sim­i­lar­i­ties in play­ing for money and pro-shop vouch­ers.

“At the end of the day you’re still play­ing golf, the golf cour­ses haven’t changed, it’s just how you per­ceive it,” said Brandt-Richards of the di„er­ence be­tween pro­fes­sional and amateur golf.

“But if you can keep your fo­cus on just play­ing good golf, do­ing what you need to do on and o„ the golf course, the money side will take care of it­self and at the end of the day what­ever money you make or don’t make it’s not go­ing to change your life.”

While some would strug­gle spend­ing hours on end in small hire cars packed with golf clubs or trav­el­ling to re­mote parts of the world like Pa­pua New Guinea, Brandt-Richards em­braced shar­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion and time spent in bil­let hous­ing.

He stresses the im­por­tance of friend­ships on Tour as a key to his suc­cess in his first year in the play-for-pay ranks, sin­gling out fel­low pro and close friend Cal­lan O’Reilly, who helped show him the Pro-am ropes. Brandt-Richards jok­ingly refers to him as the other half of a “golf­ing cou­ple”, with both player’s girl­friends ap­par­ently in full agree­ment.

Both O’Reilly and Brandt-Richards are pas­sion­ate fish­er­man and never leave home with­out their por­ta­ble fish­ing set­ups, which in­clude col­lapsi­ble rods that fit into golf bags, reels and lures to help them re­lax in be­tween tour­na­ments.

Through their trav­els, the pair man­aged to drop a line in WA, New Cale­do­nia and Pa­pua New Guinea in spend­ing qual­ity time away from the ‘oŽce’, which isn’t the only ben­e­fit.

“If you catch your­self din­ner you save your­self 10 bucks,” Brandt-Richards laughed.

While suc­cess­ful in im­prov­ing his cat­e­gory through his play in 2016, ev­ery­thing didn’t quite go to plan for the first-year pro. An un­suc­cess­ful trip to Asian Tour qual­i­fy­ing school at the end of last year meant an­other year play­ing Pro-ams and smaller four-round tour­na­ments in Aus­trala­sia. Again, his re­solve has seen him over­come a dis­ap­point­ing start to 2017 and be­gin to make plans to head back to Asia and po­ten­tially Europe to at­tempt to earn play­ing rights for 2018.

Brandt-Richards’ love of golf and out­stand­ing at­ti­tude to­wards play­ing the game for a liv­ing hold him in great stead as he con­tin­ues to forge his play­ing ca­reer. His pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and will­ing­ness to travel in his rookie year opened his eyes to some of the most unique places and golf ex­pe­ri­ences in Aus­tralia and around the world. He is the epit­ome of the other side of pro­fes­sional golf where play­ers grind out a liv­ing, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of Aus­tralian golfers who cut their com­pet­i­tive teeth play­ing golf in al­most ev­ery cor­ner of the coun­try.

“It didn’t worry me if I was play­ing on sand greens or I was play­ing is­land golf cour­ses or I was play­ing some of the best golf cour­ses in the world, if they put up some prize­money and you can play for it then I’ll play for it,” Brandt-Richards said.

... IF THEY PUT UP SOME PRIZE­MONEY AND YOU CAN PLAY FOR IT THEN I’LL PLAY FOR IT.

Scenes from a life on the road ... from fish­ing for din­ner to tak­ing home big che­ques, Happy Gil­more-style.

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