Is Ireland underachieving as a golfing power?

The breakdown by country of the fully exempt European Tour players for 2015. The graphic does not include medical or career money exemptions.

Irish golf will have six players with full European Tour cards for the 2015 season which begins in Sun City this week. With Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Pádraig Harrington boasting nine major wins between them, it would seem cherish to suggest that we are not pulling our weight. And yet beyond the doors of the VIP lounge occupied by these superstars there are a lot of struggling professional golfers.

Yes, players like Paul McGinley, Gareth Maybin, Peter Lawrie, Simon Thornton and Kevin Phelan will get starts in 2015, but the short term future is unclear.

Alan Dunbar, Paul Cutler, Brendan McCarroll, Brian Casey, Reeve Whitson, Rory McNamara and Jonny Caldwell have all won big events as amateurs and now need to step up as pros while others such as Mick McGeady and Colm Moriarty have so far failed to push on from their early successes on the Challenge Tour.

But with no Irish players emerging from the Qualifying School or the Challenge Tour this year, we must look to West Waterford's Seamus Power on the Tour and Niall Turner on the Asian Tour for success stories outside the Europe.

How are Ireland's tour players performing? free polls

England dominates the European Tour with 41 players, followed by Spain and France with 13; South Africa (12); Sweden (10); Denmark (8); Italy and Scotland (7 each); Ireland north and south (6); Australia and Germany (5 each); USA (4); Wales (3); Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Finland, India and the Netherlands (2 each); and Austria, Korea, Norway, Paraguay and Thailand with one each.

Ireland's haul of six looks reasonable but should we be concerned that McIlroy and Lowry are the only players under 30 with cards on one of the world's major tours. Is the current situation simply a cyclical freak based on the talent pool? 

Scotland has seven tour players fully exempt for 2015 but like Ireland, they are scratching their heads wondering why younger players are not breaking through having drawn a blank at the Q-School.

The number of Irish amateurs turning professional every year shows no sign of abating but one wonders, given recent results, if A, they are good enough and B, whether or not they have been getting the right support. 

The Golfing Union of Ireland does its best to look after our elite amateurs and sends them to play in the best amateur events in the world. However, there are few opportunities for them to rub shoulders with elite tour players and while championship matchplay on links courses is great entertainment, more strokeplay on parkland courses is required.

The firm rule of thumb that you must be a totally dominant player in Ireland or Great Britain to make it on tour appears to hold firm. Can we do better with what we have? Or are we simply playing to our potential?  

With Phelan, Turner, Power, Gareth Shaw, Ruaidhri McGee and Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney all showing great promise and an army of hungry amateurs at home and abroad, perhaps we just need to be patient.

With the likes of Gavin Moynihan, Gary Hurley, Paul Dunne, Paul McBride, Cormac Sharvin, Dermot McElroy, Jack Hume, Robin Dawson, Chris Selfridge, John-Ross Galbraith, Stuart Grehan, Rowan Lester, Kevin LeBlanc, Tommy O'Driscoll, Eoin Leonard, James Sugrue and Thomas Mulligan all showing huge potential, there's no shortage of talent bursting to express itself.