Concra Wood will play its part in the race for five Challenge Tour places awarded to the leading money winners on the 2014 PGA EuroPro Tour. But it remains to be seen if Irish PGA champion Michael McGeady will be there as he desperately seeks financial backing that will allow him to continue chasing his tour dream.
The Derry professional, who lost the backing of a local sponsor during the economic downturn, was seriously thinking of hanging up his spikes before he claimed the Irish PGA Championship at Roganstown in October.
Now, like every other Irish player on the smaller tours, he's hoping he can find someone willing to help fund his 2014 season so he can build on some excellent play in 2013.
"It’s tough at the minute and for me it is very difficult to get sponsorship together to be able to make a schedule to play next year," said the 35-year old father of one who finished 26th in the Order of Merit in 2013 with winnings of £6,463. "I just don’t know what I am doing yet and the ball is up in the air, so to speak.
"For me, since I ran my [five-year] course with Team Ireland, it’s a financial thing. I need to have a certain amount of funds to make sure there is a roof over my head. I don’t expect someone to play my mortgage but as long as I know that I can go and play golf without having to worry about money, I can concentrate on my golf and from there play better golf."
McGeady, who won the Challenge Tour in 2008, has struggled to get back onto the second tier circuit despite playing some excellent golf on the EuroPro Tour in recent years.
The EuroPro Tour, where the winner takes home £10,000 every week, is the only show in town for him and while it keeps him competitively sharp, its set-up is far from ideal.
"I’ve been at it seven years and I have had snippets of success," McGeady explained. "I’ve won on the Challenge Tour, which is a fairly good level and been runner up too. So I know I am good enough to compete at that level. I’ve become more consistent over the last few years but haven’t been able to get back onto the Challenge Tour to prove it.
"The EuroPro is a race to get to 10 under par over three days, that’s basically what it is. It’s not a test of consistency and the way it is broken down is awful.
"I could finish third every week for six weeks in a row and someone could miss five cuts and then win an event and go ahead of me in the Order of Merit. To me, that’s not the way Order of Merits should be structured. It’s so top heavy and while they call it a development tour, I don’t think it is.
"It costs me £700-£800 a wee to play so competing in 15 events costs me £12,000 which covers entry fees, travel and accommodation. That doesn’t come close to what you are paying to cover the costs of seeing a coach, a mind psychologist or any medical expenses. That’s another €4,000 at least.
"At our level, club manufacturers are not looking after you so you have to buy that as well. It’s a catch 22 situation. You are at the bottom and you need the help, nobody wants to help you. But when you are at the top and you don’t need the help, everyone wants to give it to you.
"It is difficult to keep going and I have come close the last two years to coming off the EuroPro Tour. But I have kept chasing it and chasing it. I didn’t stick to my set out schedule and goals and when you are playing well you keep chasing it and chasing it rather than stepping back and being professional about it - taking the week off and preparing better for the following week."
Giving up satellite tour life to do a three-year PGA training course would leave McGeady in an equally difficult position financially. He would not qualify until he was almost 40 and given the economic situation, there is no guarantee he would find a club job at the end of his training.
"It’s something I’ve looked at and perhaps I might still do it," he said. "Ideally, I’d like to keep playing. I said last year I’d give myself another two years at it if I was able to get a sponsor. So I need another sponsor to give me another crack at it.
"I’ll work through the winter and try to save enough money to play one or two events at the beginning of the season and hopefully get a cash injection that way.
"Winning the Irish PGA gave me a whole new lease of life. I had thought that if at the end of the season I have nothing to show for it, I will just gracefully bow out. But now I have just another glimmer of hope and go and try and secure some kind of sponsorship and play."
If McGeady does decide to play again on the EuroPro Tour, he will have several Irish players for company - Tim Rice, Paul Cutler, Neil O Briain, David Rawluk, Rick Weldon and Mark Staunton all played regularly in 2013 while Ruaidhri McGee played four round at the Final Stage of Q-School and earned a Challenge Tour card.
No doubt, most of them will be at Conra Wood when the Castleblayney venue stages the 10th tournament of the third-tier tour's 15 event season from July 23-25.
The tour will visit some of the best courses across England, Scotland and Ireland, starting on the Brabazon at The Belfry from April 15-17.
As part of a new strategic partnership with De Vere, the tour will also bring Europe’s best young golfers to The Carrick on Loch Lomond (July 9-11) and Slaley Hall (August 13-15).
After starting at The Belfry the tour returns to Montrose Golf Links. The historic course made a successful debut on the PGA EuroPro Tour in 2013 and will again welcome the tour to Scotland’s east coast from April 29-May 1.
Longhirst Hall stages event number three from May 21-23, and for the first time the tour will play on the Dawson Course at the Northumberland venue.
The tour then heads to long-standing host Burhill (May 29-31), where the New Course is often praised as one of the best on tour.
Event five sees a return to KK Downing’s The Astbury in Shropshire from June 11-13. The course earned rave reviews from players after making its EuroPro debut last season.
From Shropshire the tour travels to Wiltshire for a maiden appearance at Cumberwell Park, described as one of southern England’s best new courses.
The tournament will take place from June 18-20. The short trip to Frilford Heath’s Blue Course in Oxfordshire follows from June 25-27.
The tour stays in Scotland after its week at The Carrick to play at Royal Burgess - The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh from July 16-18.
The final event of July sees a trip to Ireland and the third consecutive visit to the stunning and popular Concra Wood from July 23-25.
Moor Allerton was rated as one of 2013’s best new events and the tour returns to the Leeds club from August 6-8, before heading to Northumberland to play Slaley Hall’s Priestman Course.
Last year’s Tour Championship hosts Prince’s stages event number 13 from August 19-21 on their Shores and Dunes course, before the tour heads to The Oxfordshire from August 27-29.
The regular season concludes back in Scotland, where Mar Hall will host the tour for a third successive year following which the top 60 on the Order of Merit will be invited to play the Tour Championship.
A two-hour highlights package from every event will be broadcast on Sky Sports HD four times within two weeks of the tournament, and will later be available on the tour’s YouTube channel.
Details of the 2014 Tour Championship will be announced in the spring.
Entries for the 2014 PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School have now opened.
Qualifying School takes place over two stages, with players choosing from De Vere Slaley Hall, Formby Hall, Woldingham and The Players Club for their 36-hole first stage before successful golfers progress to second stage, with 54 holes played over the Red and Blue Courses at Frilford Heath. Further details can be found www.europrotour.com
PGA EuroPro Tour Schedule 2014
- April 15-17 The Belfry
- April 29 - May 1 Montrose Links
- May 21-23 Longhirst Hall
- May 29-32 Burhill
- June 11-13 The Astbury
- June 18-20 Cumberwell Park
- June 25-27 Frilford Heath
- July 9-11 The Carrick of Loch Lomond
- July 16-18 Royal Burgess
- July 23-25 Concra Wood
- August 6-8 Moor Allerton
- August 13-15 Slaley Hall
- August 19-21 Prince’s
- August 27-29 The Oxfordshire
- September 3-5 Mar Hall