Here’s a stat for you: only 110 of the 415 players who have won cards for the European Tour through Qualifying School since 2000 managed to retain them. That’s a success rate of just 26.3%
It gets worse when you consider that this figure is skewed somewhat by 40% of the graduates holding on to their cards in the first year of the 21st century. In three of the last four years for which data is available, that number has dipped below 20%, with only five of the 37 players who got cards in 2011 managing to keep them – just 13.5%.
Clearly, then, holding onto your card is a tough gig. Harder still when you consider the number of starts you are likely to get with that card. Over the past ten seasons, according to the European Tour website, the average minimum number of opportunities for Tour School graduates is 18 events. This year’s European Tour International Schedule comprised of 51 events, 49 if you take the EurAsia Cup and Ryder Cup out of consideration.
In other words, Tour School graduates can expect to play roughly 37% of the events on the schedule.
Not much, is it?
It goes without saying, then, that they need every bit of help they can get. Lucky bounces here and there and, of course, a handful of tournament invitations, particularly to events in your home country.
All of which makes it utterly extraordinary that the people in charge of last week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship deemed neither Alastair Forsyth nor Jack Doherty – both graduates from the class of 2013 and the fourth and sixth reserves, respectively – worthy of invitations.
It’s not like there were only a handful of spots available. There were 26 of them. Twenty-six. Only one of those was handed to a Scot – Sandy Lyle. David Duval and Sir Nick Faldo also accepted invites and fair enough: you can see the box office potential in each of those three guys.
And, of course, Oliver Wilson won the title on an invite, although, as a former Ryder Cup player, there was a compelling case to be made for him, too.
But, with the greatest of respect to Jens Dantorp, Adrien Saddier and Danie Van Tonder, do they really deserve a spot in the field more than, say, a two-time European Tour winner such as Forsyth? Particularly when the event is taking place just a two-hour drive from his front door?
“Appears being Scottish ET card holders for an event on home soil is worthless.” - Bounce Sports
Look, I’m not daft. He who pays the piper calls the tune. The Alfred Dunhill Links is reliant on the financial support of South African Johann Rupert. If he, as cheque-writer, wants to give seven of his tournament invitations to his compatriots, that’s up to him. It’s frustrating, though.
At the start of the week, Forsyth tweeted: “168 players including 26 invites playing on the European Tour in Scotland this week but can't get a game. Must have upset someone.”
Replying to a comment from fellow Scot Callum Macaulay, he added: “With 26 invites you'd think 2 scots with tour cards who are 4th and 6th reserve would get a game.”
Bounce Sports, which represents both Forsyth and Doherty, also tweeted its disappointment, saying: “Appears being Scottish ET card holders for an event on home soil is worthless.”
Seems that way, doesn’t it?
Nobody is saying that keeping your European Tour card should be easy. It shouldn’t. There is, however, a fine line between difficult and unfair. Last week, the organisers of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship may just have crossed it.
Did Dunhill Links organisers blunder?
Do you agree with Michael McEwan that the organisers of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship got it wrong by not giving one of their 26 invites to either Alastair Forysth or Jack Doherty? Leave your thoughts in our ‘Comments’ section below.