OPPORTUNITY is knocking for the young guns of the North East with this week’s announcement of the Optical Express Pro Golf Tour 2011, a series of six two-day events in Scotland.
The tour builds up to an expenses-paid trip to the final on the Son Gualin course in Mallorca during December for the season’s leading 24 players.
The series has heavyweight support from major winners Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen and it drew a favourable reception from Martin Forster, last season’s captain of the PGA North Region, an area which extends from north Wales to the Scottish border.
The Corbridge-born Forster, a major winner on the PGA North circuit, who in his time has set course records at Slaley Hall, Ramside, Tyneside and Morpeth, said: “They seem to have chosen some nice venues and it is certainly close to home for North East professionals to play.”
A former Hexham club pro now coaching at Tynedale, Bellingham, Allendale and Philips Golf in Killingworth, Forster added: “I am sure it will attract interest from our region and give some of our younger professionals a chance to make a name for themselves.”
The idea is the brainchild of Scottish professionals Alan Tait and Nigel Scott-Smith.
Tait said: “The tour isn’t only for Scottish players, everyone can enter and in fact we encourage entries from places out with of Scotland.”
There is a minimum prize fund of £8,000 at each Scottish event and £10,000 in Mallorca. The City of Newcastle amateur Phil Ridden (pictured below), a former Journal Champion of Champions who is thinking of turning pro next year, said: “It is something which would interest players like myself.”
“The downside is that although it is far less expensive to enter than the Europro Tour, the prize money is nothing like so high, certainly for the leading places, and there are no spots on the Challenge Tour at the end of it.
“The upside is that whereas most of the Europro events are in the South and expensive to get to as well as to enter, if I do turn pro, I would be looking at fitting as many of these Scottish events as I could into my schedule to try to keep income coming in”.
Harrington, winner of The Open Championship in 2007 and 2008, when he also won The PGA Championship, said: “This new tour provides golf professionals with the perfect opportunity to improve their game.
“As somebody who has had benefited from having had laser eye surgery from Optical Express, to me they are the perfect sponsor to help promote golf development and build aspiring talent.”
Retief Goosen, who won the US Open in 2001 and 2004 said: “I fully believe this will be a memorable addition to the golf calendar.”
PRO GOLF TOUR 2011 SCHEDULE
May 5-6: Stranraer
May 25-26: Hilton Park
July 20-21: The Westerwood
August 8-9: The Roxburghe
September 21-22: Letham Grange
October 3-4: Irvine (Bogside)
Players can see details and book places online at www.opticalexpressPGT.com