Damien McGrane has warned Ireland’s budding stars to work their socks off or get eaten in the tour jungle.
The Kells man is just €20,000 short of smashing through the €3 million prize money barrier in this week’s Open de Andalucia in Spain. And after eight years on tour, he knows that hard graft is the only way to survive long enough to earn the big bucks.
McGrane said: “I have worked and done my apprenticeship throughout the game and now I am playing on the European Tour for good money. And that is what I deserve.
“But guys who are starting out are facing their stiffest challenge yet. It is survival of the fittest out there.”
Two of Ireland’s new boys return to action this week with Qualifying School graduate Simon Thornton joining McGrane in Malaga and former Walker Cup star Niall Kearney making his Challenge Tour debut in Kenya.
Warning them to work hard to face certain extinction, McGrane said: “If you think you’ve worked in the past and think you’ve been focused, now is the time to really knuckle down.
“Guys get cards and think that there’s a reward for getting on the tour. But in reality, you have nothing.
“You then have to go, play your golf, travel the world, earn your money and somehow win enough to keep your card and survive on the tour in the early years.
“If they think they’ve made it they’re wrong. They have done nothing until they survive their first couple of years on the tour.”
Dozens of others are battling to scrape together the sponsorship money so that they can tee it up on the mini tours. But McGrane believes they have to forget about hand outs from sponsors and go out and earn their “stake money” with sweat and tears.
He rapped: “Everybody has to step up and improve their games and then with the better tours come better opportunities, bigger prize money and better sponsorship. For my first three years on the European Tour I was also working as a club pro in Wexford Golf Club.
“Everybody has to work from stage to stage and if you have to have some income to support yourself on the golf course, then so be it. There are 24 hours in a day and if I guy wants to practice for two hours, he has another 22 hours to walk about loving himself.
“He could get a job, do something productive and help fund his own golf. That’s what most people have to do.”
McGrane won the Volvo China Open in 2008 and even beat Tiger Woods when they went head to head in Dubai.
He knows that there are dozens of young guns ready to take his place on tour but he accepts that as part of the game.
He said: “The game is starting to become very cut-throat - but that’s what makes Sunday night TV so special for everybody. The guys who are at the top of the game are so bloody good.
“Remember, if it was easy, the standard wouldn’t be as high and it wouldn’t make good TV. And you wouldn’t be as much money in the game. Everything filters up and filters down.
“I worked hard. It probably took me ten years to get into the European Tour and my advice to all these young players is that it is not easy. It is never easy.
“Their first day’s work is the day they get a European Tour card. That’s their first day’s work because that is when your job starts.
“A lot of people think that once you get a European Tour membership, you have made it, you’ve done it. Life is good. Wrong. From there that’s your first days’ work.
“You haven’t earned a penny and have to go out working. You have to earn your salt. That’s the difficult part and a lot of people don’t realise that.”