Golf could be considered as one of the most glamorous sports in the world. Getting to travel all over the globe, earn a substantial amount of money for four days work and being able to eat all the wonderful foods other sports stars shouldn’t. Let alone arguably having a gorgeous wife or husband by your side.
However in the gloomy world of reality, it is not that simple. There are just over 24,000 professional golfers in the United States alone but only 324 are able to play on the biggest stage of all – The PGA Tour.
When you put that into context, if you include Web.com regulars (the second division of golf), only 2.2% of all professional golfers in America are actually earning enough money to live off by competing in tournaments.
So without sponsorship, family backing or another job, life on the ‘lower tours’ is one of hardship, dedication and in many ways, a huge gamble.
Michael Midgette is one of these ‘gamblers’ who has a dream and is doing everything possible to make it reality. As a member of The National Golf Association Pro Golf Tour (NGA Pro Golf Tour) and The Minor League Tour, Michael plays in tournaments every week and even though he is one of the luckier professionals who can fall back on family support, constant hard work is everything.
“I try to practice every day with one day entirely off to give my body and mind a rest from the grind.
“The best part about golf is that it’s only up to you. It is all up to the individual to make sacrifices, continue to work hard, and get up everyday wanting to improve.
“I am fortunate enough to have the financial support of my parents… I take advantage of my situation in a very positive way in that I won’t take all of my fortunes for granted. I work hard, very hard, being that I rarely sit still. I am always practicing, playing, or going to the gym.”
Work ethic is a vital tool for every wannabe athlete but golf is one of those rare sports where there are so many different variables to constantly tweak. As we all know from our own golfing experiences, a wonderful drive can be followed by a shank into the trees and the casual scream of “FOUR” before a great recovery approach shot wasted by a terrible 3-putt. For someone like Michael to be able to iron out these mistakes and push on, it takes years of constant practice.
“I am currently struggling to put a good number up on the board, however, it is due to an inconsistency in my short game at the moment, but with my hard work and dedication level, I have no doubt it will come together again soon.
“I will continue to practice 5-6 hours a day, 6 times a week with a round or two included. I will eliminate the distractions such as social networking, going out and having a few pints with friends at night, especially the night before a tournament, and enjoy what I do more everyday I step up to the practice tee.
“This game is supposed to be exciting and fun. As long as I keep it that way, work on the right things, and stay focused and committed, I have faith it will work out
“Being that I started at a much later age than my fellow competitors (age 16, now 25), I realize I have to work that much harder to compete and obtain my goals.”
With the long term ambitions for Michael and all his competitors to make the big time, it is paramount that the short term goals are looked after first and foremost. Especially as the average life span of an elite third-tier golfer before reaching the PGA Tour is just under 5 years. And even then, there is absolutely no guarantee of success.
“There are a lot of short-term goals for the next coming months. I have drills that I use in practice and in pre-round warm-ups that I would like to master in the next week or two.
“Smaller accomplishments include leading the money list on the MinorLeagueGolf.com tour by the last major championship late in the year.
“Another 4 or 5 victories elsewhere, such as in New York (Long Island Open, New York State Open, Met Open) would suffice as a successful year. Now that I know I can do it and have what it takes to perform at the professional level, I believe these are all realistic.”
Michael turned pro in 2011 but it was not till January this year when he won his first tournament at the Jupiter Classic, following that victory with another win at the Atlantis Classic just two weeks later, propelling him to 8th in the Minor League money list.
“I have gained so much knowledge and experience since I turned professional. As long as I keep learning, having fun, and working hard, I don’t see my game going anywhere, but improving.
“To expand the way I manage a golf course has improved, from knowing how to play a practice round, to knowing what to work on and trust during a tournament, to knowing when to take a break, all aspects keep improving.”
For many amateur golfers thinking of turning pro, the decision should not be rushed, as it is evident how difficult life as a pro golfer can be. Many will not realise the hardship they will face, however it is not the elite where Michael feels the future of golf as a whole lies, but lower down the ability standards.
“An emphasis needs to be placed on the affordability and making the game more fun for the average golfer.
“I feel that in order for all customers to enjoy their round of golf, the average pace of play needs to improve, and this requirement will be the quickest and easiest way for that to happen.
“As far as the affordability, I believe Jack Nicklaus, alongside Gary Player and Arnold Palmer, stated the ball needs to be slowed down. Courses are becoming too long to keep up with the technology in the game, which in turn increases maintenance costs, thus increasing greens fees worldwide.”
It was not too long ago that Michael himself was one of those average golfers with “knockoff clubs”, feeling the effects of a costly round. And although his pro tournament entry fees are still not cheap, he has started to realise his long-term dream of reaching the PGA Tour.
Although it is not yet glamorous, the reality is that with the right sort of backing, it may not be so gloomy after all.