Walkley eyes pro ranks

Darren Walkley. Picture: Andrew Griffin
Darren Walkley. Picture: Andrew Griffin
Scott Gregory. Picture: Andrew Griffin

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Darren Walkley is weighing up a move into the professional ranks after an outstanding season of progress.

The 24-year-old plus-three handicapper from Westbourne lifted the inaugural Hampshire Order of Merit title after a string of consistent performances on the county circuit.

That included a victory in the Delhi Cup at Hockley and an impressive performance in the Selborne Salver, while he was also a fixture for Hampshire after breaking into the team at the start of the season.

Aside from his efforts in the bigger events, Walkley also starred on his home track at Hayling as he became club champion and sealed a scratch matchplay knockout title.

That form continued recently when he equalled the course record that has stood since 2008 with a blistering eight-under-par 63 in a monthly medal competition.

And his form has left him wondering if the time has come to carve out a living as a professional.

Walkley said: ‘I’ve had a really good season.

‘I’ve played well all year and my game keeps improving.

‘There have been some events where I just haven’t scored very well.

‘But I have been pretty consistent and I guess that’s why I won the order or merit.

‘Now I’m trying to get a bit of funding together because I am thinking about turning professional and trying to play on the Europro Tour and some of those other events.

‘If I can’t do that, I’ll stay as an amateur for another year and then maybe do my PGA qualification next year.

‘Going that route is a lot cheaper but I haven’t totally decided yet.

‘It’s more likely I will stay as an amateur unless someone comes along and gives me some money towards turning pro – I’m not sure that’s going to happen!

‘I want to play golf for a living but it’s tough to be in a position to get started and have a go at it.

‘But you don’t know where your game is at until you mix it with those boys.’

Working with Hayling club pro, Mark Treleaven, Walkley has made impressive progress with his game and is looking to continue in the same vein over the winter.

He said: ‘My handicap was seven in 2010 when I joined Hayling but I’m down to plus three.

‘So I’ve come down 10 shots in four years.

‘I hit the ball with a bit of a fade but every now and then I would get a bit quick on it and hit a big cut.

‘That was pretty destructive but I have managed to take that out of my game and it has made a big difference.

‘It also helps I’m working in the pro shop so I get more time to practice and I am around golf all the time.’

And Walkley admits local knowledge played a helping hand in his course-record round at the popular links.

We went out early before the wind started to get up,’ he added.

‘It was just a monthly medal and I had four birdies on the front nine and four birdies on the back nine.

‘It was just one of those days where it went really well.

‘But I had four putts lip out and one on the 17th that went in the hole and somehow came back out again.

‘Mark Thistleton has the record and I’m good friends with him, so I sent him a picture of the scorecard after I’d finished.

‘He said “well done – just don’t go any lower!”

‘But I would love to set a new course record at some point.’