Why two young Brits have joined a pop star’s fledgling golf agency as they embark on their professional careers
How two young Brits are forging a career with a pop superstar’s help.
Turning professional is the ultimate dream for millions of young golfers. You’ll see them on the putting green every weekend, where they spend hour after hour after hour holing six-footers to win “The Open”. For a fraction of them, the dream will come true – and that’s when things get scary.
There’s a massive difference standing over that six-footer to win an imaginary Claret Jug, compared to standing over a six-footer to make a cut. Or keep your card. Or bank £100,000. But that’s just part of it. Turning pro means travel, taxes, entry forms, asking for invitations, media work, sponsor deals, paying your caddie/coach/trainer… It means getting your card, keeping your card, playing all over the world, staying all over the world, hiring – and often firing – caddies, coaches, personal trainers… and agents.
For a rising star who’s already tasted pro life via the biggest amateur events and the odd sponsors’ invite, the latter decision can help everything else fall into place. For many aspiring pros, it used to be a case of choosing between one of the big management firms like IMG (founded by Mark Mccormack) or ISM (founded by ex-tour player Andrew Chandler). But the last few years have seen the rise of smaller agencies that can have more personal relationships with fewer players. The newest of them all is Modest! Golf.
They’re unusual, and different. Firstly, their mission is to help upand-coming players in their early 20s find their feet in the big, scary world of professional golf. Secondly, one of the bosses is pop superstar and megakeen golfer Niall Horan.
Horan, and fellow directors Mark Mcdonnell and Ian Watts, will again be supporting the Challenge Tour’s Northern Ireland Open for the third year running (August 16-19 at Galgorm Castle) with Mcdonnell telling us: “We want to develop that and hosting tournaments in general, but our main focus is helping produce the stars of tomorrow.”
Modest! Golf started up a couple of years ago and they have high hopes for the six players – all under 23 – currently on their books. We met two of them – Brits Connor Syme and Jack Singh Brar – to find out why they went with this agency, and what they think it can do for their game.
How did it all start for you?
Jack: I started playing at the age of five, which is pretty late these days. My dad started playing quite late in his life and I just followed on a few months later and started pretty much playing most days from seven-10. And I just went from there. I made good progress, winning a couple of kids’ tourneys, including the HSBC Wee Wonders. I also played in the US Kids events as well before playing in the leading amateur events such as the Macgregor and Carris Trophies. Connor: My dad is a pro so I started playing very young because he got me i nto it. But between t he ages of eight and 1 4 I was reflecting t hat golf was more my dad’s sport and I wasn’t i nto it t hat much – I was more i nto football and played for Queen of t he South. When I was about 1 4 , I had to make a choice because t he football and golf both took place on Sunday. Having got i nto t he Scottish golf squad I opted for golf and progressed f rom t here really. I got more i nto golf and it ’s been t hat way ever since. Jack: I did play a bit of football, but I was quite young, though I still play a bit with my friends. Connor: He didn’t have too much skill though!
Was joining Modest! Golf a big decision for you?
Jack: We signed on the same day before last year’s Dunhill Links. We spoke about Modest! quite a lot before we turned pro. I was pretty set on signing, but Connor was flirting around the edge for a bit trying to get me off the ball. Connor: I was trying to keep Jack on his toes! I don’t like to confirm anything until it is absolutely sorted. Jack: There’s a lot to choose from out there and unfortunately you hear a lot of horror stories about management companies, but I was swayed by stuff like guaranteed starts owing to Modest! hosting their own event (Northern Ireland Open on Challenge Tour), and having regular contact with Mark since last March. I developed quite a good relationship and it just seemed like a proper outfit and had all bases covered. They have fulfilled everything I wanted. Connor: The guys have been great since I turned pro. I think Modest! are the most forward-thinking outfit. It’s great to be joining the company at the start almost. It’s an exciting time.
Were you aware of Niall Horan and his involvement?
Connor: I met him a couple of times before I signed and he’s part of the team and definitely helps us out as much as anybody else. He’s very into his golf, very passionate about it. His involvement makes it an exciting company to be a part of.
What are your goals this year?
Jack: We’re treading slightly different paths after Q School with Connor having secured his card there. I’ll hopefully go down the Challenge Tour route, get my seven starts with Modest! and hopefully break through and guarantee my card from there. I’ll try and get them in early so I can then plan ahead – I don’t want to leave it too late and don’t see any point in
spacing it out until the end of the season. Connor: Getting my card at Q School has definitely opened a few doors this year, with the season kicking off in Dubai followed by a little trip to Australia. Q School is a gruelling week, but fortunately I was able to get through it and luckily I was in a bit of good form and played well enough to get one of the top 25 cards (he finished T9). It’s going to be an exciting year. Though I’ve had a few opportunities with starts, it’s great to have a platform that I can build on. Finishing in the top 12 on my pro debut in the Algarve gave me a lot of belief. A lot is about confidence and the mental approach, momentum and having things go your way, which all combine to make it easier. It has given us both belief because we grew up playing together and have been friends for a few years now.
How tough is it out there?
Jack: Very. It’s dog-eat-dog. It’s another world coming from amateur golf, where you virtually know everyone. Though you know most of the players out here, you don’t know them personally, and that makes a difference. Connor: Having come through Q School I’ve got slightly limited starts, so it would be good to have the opportunity to cement myself on the European Tour; the goal for me is to try and get into that top 110 for next year, which would open a few doors in terms of events and guarantees. But I’m not trying to run before I can walk. You’ve got to be realistic. Though I have a card it’s still a bit of a transitional time in terms of starts. I’ve got to take opportunities as they come. Jack: I’ve dreamt of this moment since I was five years old, but once you’re here you just want to get the job done. I just want to break through on the Challenge Tour and then push on to the top 15 and get on to the European Tour through that. Just to keep going through my processes. Connor: You stick to what you do because if you plan everything out, it’s so subjective – obviously you’ve got to have goals, but you can only control your next shot.
Name: Jack Singh Brar Age: 21 From: Hampshire, England CV: Represented Hants and England at both U16 and U18 level. Played for GB at the Junior Olympics and in 2017 won the Lytham Trophy. Played for GB&I at the 2017 Walker Cup (highest points scorer)....