A decade ago, Barry Hume was heralded as Scotland’s brightest golfing prospect.
Having strutted to victory in numerous 36-holers and domestic Order of Merit events, the Haggs Castle youngster was the most hotly-tipped amateur of his generation and exuded the self-assured confidence of a hardened champion who was certain that, should he perform to his capabilities, victory was near guaranteed.
A precocious talent, that self-belief was justifiable. Capped at Boys’, Youths’ and full international level, Hume had led his country to a long-awaited Home Internationals victory in 2000 and secured the winning point as Scotland took the gold medal in the European Team Championships the following year.
The then 20-year-old had also just won the Scottish Strokeplay to complete a distinguished domestic double, following on from the Scottish Amateur title he clinched the previous year.
Such form had the soothsayers of the country’s golfing media predicting that Hume, above contemporaries such as Marc Warren and Steven O’Hara, to be the next Scot to light up the professional arena. Indeed, his final flourish as an amateur - a tie for 21st amidst a stellar European Tour field in the 2002 Scottish Open - seemed to be the conclusive presage to a long and successful pro career. It seemed only a matter of time before those predictions would be realised.
Fast-forward to the present day and the once gifted youngster tipped as the heir to Monty, Lawrie and Coltart as the next flag bearer of Scottish golf has called time on a stuttering tour career. Now, Hume is considering a return to the amateur game.
"I thought that would be my career forever" - Barry Hume
“Golf is finished for me now - certainly as a professional,” he tells bunkered over a spot of lunch at Glasgow’s Blythswood Hotel. “When I was younger all I wanted to do was play golf for a living. My path was clear. I thought that would be my career forever. But, it got to the stage where that really wasn’t going to work.”
A notoriously resolute competitor on the course, the ever-forthright Hume confessed that giving up on his lifetime ambition was a painful decision to make.
“I don’t like to admit defeat,” he says. “But, looking into the process of turning amateur is almost as if I’m admitting that I couldn’t get there as a professional.”
Whereas turning pro is simply triggered when a player breaches his amateur status by making money from the game, to be reinstated as an amateur is a more lengthy, bureaucratic process. Ultimately the decision lies with the amateur game’s governing body, the R&A, to whom applicants must submit a ‘Reinstatement of Amateur Status Form’.
Hume admitted that though he had settled on the decision to end his days as a pro, it still took a while before he could sign away a lifetime ambition.
"I’d rather play as an amateur and be competitive at that level than try to earn money from golf"
“That form sat on my desk for at least a year before I sent it,” he says. “I was going to play golf forever and, if not… well, that wasn’t ever really in my thoughts.
“But, I’d rather play as an amateur and be competitive at that level than try to earn money from golf.”
Now 30 years of age and reinvigorated by a new business venture, the Glasgow man was candid when asked to pinpoint the moment he knew had to give up on a career in the paid game.
“Q-School at Dundonald in 2010,” Hume says, without hesitation. There, he says he witnessed the performance of the latest up-and-coming Scottish prospect.
“That last time at Q-School, Kevin McAlpine was doing really well,” he recalls. “In the first round, he shot a great score and it really summed up that he was full of confidence, that he was just playing golf the way he saw it. The occasion didn’t make any difference. That reminded me of the way I used to see it, too.”
Ever-forthright, Hume admitted that, with each missed cut as a pro, that quality had been eroded in his game as financial worries mounted. Understandably, he found it increasingly difficult to play with a carefree attitude on the course when off-course issues loomed large.
“But, now Kevin’s been pro for a few years, when he goes to Q-School now he might view it very differently. He might not be able to play with the same freedom he once had. Substitute his name for mine and that’s exactly what happened to me.”
Reflecting on the denouement of his days as a pro, he admitted that being unable to meet the financial obligations of embarking on another season scrapping to make a living on the game’s many feeder circuits made giving up an easy decision to make.
"It just became unfeasible financially to continue"
“It just became unfeasible financially to continue. I just didn’t have the money. It’s just not enjoyable or easy to play when you can’t afford to be wasting a pound.
“It’s going to cost you £25-30k to really play properly. I’m not a wealthy person, and I didn’t have that backing. If you look at the start of my pro career, I was doing it properly and my results showed that. You’ll notice that my results started to dip as soon as the backing wasn’t there.
“It’s just a natural progression. Then it just became me trying to do it on a shoestring budget, and that reflected in my performance.”
Indeed, that conclusion seems to be demonstrated by the fact that Hume came closest to earning that ultimately elusive European Tour card at his first attempt, making it through 14 rounds to Final Stage Qualifying only to narrowly miss out on securing eligibility.
It’s a story often told that, before going on to become Masters champion and world No.1, Ian Woosnam had a few failed attempts at Q-School before he finally established himself on the tour in the late 1970s.
Elaborating on that example, Hume said that, these days, fledgling pros aren’t afforded the same timeframe to gain a foothold in the paid ranks.
“From my experience I’d say that window is maybe two years,” he says. “For the guys that come through high-profile, such as myself a while back, you have a maximum two-year window to get your card. Otherwise, the life you end up in isn’t the one you thought you were getting into.”
"You’ve got a certain window of opportunity to get your card"
Despite that, Hume said he didn’t harbour any regrets about making the decision to graduate to the pro arena when he did. Indeed, when asked if he’d do it all over again, his answer was emphatic.
“Definitely. When I turned pro, it would have been silly not to. I was riding the crest of a wave. The invites, sponsorship, opportunities - they were all there for me. It was the right time but, going back to what I said, you’ve got a certain window of opportunity to get your card and I just missed out at the first attempt.
“I was sort of unprepared for that. I was just so driven to get my card that, when it didn’t happen, I was sort of unprepared for what would happen next.
“Looking back now, I enjoyed the time, the experiences I’ve had and where I’ve been. I think I’ve been able to put in a few good performances. I think I showed, in flashes, that I could play at that level.”
Indeed, though Hume might be calling time on life on tour, in his shortened vocation he had some notable highlights which many pros might fail to emulate over far longer spells in the game.
He played in two Open Championships - “That was an achievement” - and, as the sponsors began to drop away, he even took the courageous decision to up sticks and have a crack at the Asian Tour.
Despite playing on a week-to-week, cheque-by-cheque basis, Hume managed to keep his card from limited starts - no mean feat. However, he feels that was an accomplishment that went unnoticed by golf scribes here at home.
"I think sportsmen in this country get pigeon-holed"
“With the limited knowledge the media in this country have of that market, it was totally disregarded,” he said.
Now he’s turned his back on a life on tour, won’t he miss the adrenaline rush of playing competitively? The thrill of chasing down a title?.
“No.” And with good reason, as he went on to explain. “Golf isn’t the only thing I’m capable of doing,” says Hume. “I think sportsmen in this country get pigeon-holed.”
“When I was thinking about stopping playing, people would ask, ‘What else are you going to do?’ I guess then you just keep playing because you become convinced that’s all you’re good at.”
Perhaps it is for that reason that, in his new career, Hume hopes to help fledgling athletes down a route which offers more than just an education in sport.
Through his new company, Soccer Innovation, Hume aims to guide young footballers through the daunting process of gaining much-coveted scholarships to US colleges.
“My focus now is on Soccer Innovation and developing the business,” said Hume. “I’m just really excited to be taking on that opportunity.”
Having experienced both the highs and the lows of a career as professional sportsman, there’s no doubt that Hume is perfectly placed to offer his advice to athletes of the future.
Barry Hume in bunkered
This interview with Barry Hume first appeared in issue 114 of bunkered (published: October 2011).