Thinking of turning professional? Stop for a moment to listen to Danielle McVeigh, who has decided to seek her future in the real world for now after coming to the conclusion that the weekly tour grind was going to change her irrevocably as a person.
The 26-year old from Kilkeel in Co Down is one of the most talented golfers to emerge from this island over the past decade, yet despite all her achievements in the amateur ranks, it took just two years in the lower echelons of the women’s professional game to realise that she might not have what it takes to make it without risking becoming someone she did not want to be.
Highly intelligent - she studied for two years at Texas A&M University on the golf scholarship before attaining an honours degree in Business and Management from NUI Maynooth in 2011 - the former Curtis Cup star from Royal County Down Ladies turned professional just over two years ago.
With a string of amateur successes under her belt, the statuesque Ulster woman appeared to have all the weapons required to do some damage on the Ladies European Tour. But it took just two years for her to realise that it might not be for her.
She made just one cut in six starts on the Ladies European Tour as a professional and spent most of her time battling for small prize funds on the second tier LET Access Series (LETAS) with a return of five top 10s from her 23 LETAS starts since 2012 - not bad but not enough to convince her that it’s worth battling on right now.
With total tournament winnings of less than €6,000 this season, which included a career best third place finish worth €1,824 in September’s Ladies Norwegian Challenge, she finished 32nd in the Order of Merit and decided she would not be teeing it up in this week’s Qualifying School in Morocco.
“I have been lucky to play my hobby for a living but it is not as pretty a picture as it might appear,” she explained this week.
“If anyone is thinking of turning professional, I would just tell them to be honest with themselves and work out what they really want. Why do they really want to turn pro?
“I wouldn’t discourage anyone from turning professional but I’d want them to think about it and know they are doing it for themselves and not for the money. As long as you know going in there what happens and what you need to do, you will be well prepared for it.
“I had no illusions about what it was like, having spoken to a lot of people who had turned pro and asked about the ins and outs. I knew what I was getting myself in for, yes. You have put yourself No 1 and be a very tough person. And maybe I am not as tough as you need to be and I don’t want to change who I am just to earn a few extra quid playing golf. I’d rather be a happier person.
“It was that I wasn’t happy but I was asking myself if I could see myself doing this and being happy for the next few years. A few years ago I was very golf focussed and golf was all I wanted to do and all I could do. But now I know I can do more things and I want to explore that.”
Knowing when to stop is half the battle and unlike many who become almost institutionalised by tour routine, as Challenge Tour regular Colm Moriarty explained last year, McVeigh got a glimpse of the future and did not like what she saw.
“There are girls out there that I see week in and week out who have been doing the same thing for 20 years. One day it just kind of hit me, I do not want to be that person still grinding it out and things are really tight, when I am 39.
“Some people, that’s all they want to do for as long as they are out there. But that is not me. As I say, I might miss it so much in six months’ time that I might be back next year, but I just don’t know.
“People want some security and certainty in their lives and golf is not any of those things.
“Guys like Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, and Shane Lowry, what they have achieved is fairytale stuff. It takes a different kind of person to do that week in, week out. Those guys are phenomenal but nobody can get away from the problems, not even them, and it is just how you adapt to them.
"All you need is three good weeks a year and you are sorted. But if you are having tough weeks, you get frustrated with yourself and you can get down a bit and it is a bit of a spiral then.
“I didn’t have one specific week when it hit me, I was just thinking about it for the guts of the whole year, thinking about what to do. I put it on the back burner for a while but the last three or four events there, I knew this was probably not what I want to do long term.
“It was two years and the highs were really good but the missed cuts weren’t that much fun. It’s expensive, yes, but when you are trying to play on a tight budget and still perform it is difficult. If you stayed somewhere cheaper you could go to more tournaments so it is a balance. But I wouldn’t take back my time at all, I’m glad I did it. I might miss it in six months’ time and want to go back, so I’m not really sure.”
Winner of the World Student Games title in Thailand in 2007, McVeigh became an established senior international in 2006 and claimed the Ladies British Amateur Strokeplay and the Welsh Open Strokeplay titles in 2009 and the Scottish Strokeplay title as well as Curtis Cup honours in 2010.
In 2011 she won the Irish Ladies Close at Carlow before turing professional later that year with funding from the Team Ireland Golf Trust.
The €16,000 she received to help finance her second season in the professional ranks was a welcome boost but money, while crucial, was not the answer to all her problems.
“I got the highest award from the Team Ireland Golf Trust for this year - €16,000. You probably need double that to survive so trying to earn the shortfall to put back into the next event is difficult when you know you have to perform and make money. I got some local sponsorship from Kilkeel Seafoods, a company near home, so everything I made went back into the pot towards the costs of travelling.
“Without a caddie it was costing €1,000 per event and that was doing it on as tight a budget as I could. It was do-able if you shared hotel rooms or what was more usual, sharing a house between three or four of us. That was only €150-€200 a week and we would cook every night because eating out is one of the most expensive things you can do.
“We all clubbed together to make it as cheap as possible and there was fantastic camaraderie with the girls. It was great having that independence and doing your own thing.
“More sponsorship would have eased my travel costs and helped with my rent, which are the things you have to keep going when you are travelling. But just throwing more money at it is not going to solve the thing either. Figuring out what is happening with your game and what needs to change is more important than getting more money. And when you are out there on tour, you have to figure it out yourself.
“I think I have changed a lot in the last couple of years - how I play the game and how I live my life. I am a different person than I was a few years ago. That might not reflect well in my golf scores but I am a better, happier person now at 26.
“I’ve just realised, after playing golf for 15 years, that there are other opportunities out there. I just want to do something different.
“I haven’t decided what I am going to do regarding staying in professional golf and we will give it a year and see then if I want to go back. I will still play golf at weekends but hopefully I can get some work experience and take it from there. I would have been at Q-School this week, but knowing that I don’t want to play next year, there was no point in going.
"So I am writing away with job applications at the moment but it is not that easy and I would be grateful for any help. I did a Business and Management Degree but the only work experience I have was as a receptionist for my dad when I left school and in the pro’s shop in Edmondstown. What I have done with my life so far should stand me in good stead in the job market and I am obviously very self-motivated. Who knows what will happen, but I have no regrets. I’m excited about the possibility of new opportunities, new challenges.”