THERE is an occasional minor downside to John Harrison, director of coaching at Matfen Hall, being the only player on the European Senior Tour who combines worldwide travel with holding down a club job.
The first two weeks in March bring tournaments in Brunei and China but, despite finishing 41st last year when he was eligible for only two thirds of his rookie season, Harrison remains a Category 9 player.
Both March events are co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour, which means Harrison has to wait to see how many Asian players enter before knowing whether he has a spot in either of them.
Harrison, who has helped Ashington’s Kenneth Ferrie win two European Tour titles, is understandably in demand as a coach, partly because of his uncomplicated approach and Ferrie’s success, but also because of his legendary patience and good humour.
He said: “As far as early March is concerned it means I cannot book in lessons to coach players at Matfen until the last minute and I have to keep my sheet blank until I know either way.
“That is not a good thing and I might find myself nipping over to Portugal for a few days’ warm weather practice.”
Harrison, who lies 18th after three tournaments in the Order of Merit led by former major winner Sandy Lyle, has made a good start towards his main target this season of jumping to Category 1.
To do that he will need to finish the season inside the top 30, which does more than get him an automatic place in tournaments of the calibre of the Senior Open Championship.
He added: “Having a better ranking gets you into more tournaments, helps you plan your schedule more easily and you play all the pro-ams – which means no 7am starts for your practice round.
“I also know exactly when I am free to do my coaching at Matfen!”
A former county coach for both Northumberland and Durham, Harrison already has £14,585 in prize money after a decent set of finishes in Japan (12th), Australia (37th) and a 15th place in Mauritius, where five years ago he finished runner-up in the European club Pro of the Year tournament.
All three of those Senior Tour events were played before Christmas, and because the 2012 Tour switches to coincide with the calendar year the pros are playing them twice this season.
China is one of four new destinations for 2011 alongside Australia, Germany and Japan
Long-term fixtures on the schedule include the De Vere Club PGA Seniors Championship, which returns to Slaley Hall in an earlier slot from June 9-12, and the 19th edition of the Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open at Fairmont St Andrews from August 19-21.
The Senior Open, which celebrates its 25th edition this year, moves to Walton Heath in Surrey, England, for the first time and takes place July 21-24.
Bernhard Langer will defend the title 30 years after he played at the venue in the first Ryder Cup contested on European soil.