Wright stays on course to chase pro dream

Darren Wright
Darren Wright
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While the cream of European golf battle it out for the rich pickings in the glamour and sunshine of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and South Africa, Darren Wright has a 5am alarm call.

Instead of dodging the trees and bushes in plotting his way around a golf course, the 25-year-old professional from Rowlands Castle is digging them up as he earns some money in his father’s property maintenance business.

Many gnarled pros will quote the phrase ‘the answer is in the dirt’ as they refer to the hours of practice required to make it to the top.

Unlike Wright, they probably didn’t mean it quite so literally.

But while it’s a test of character and his will to eventually make it on the European Tour, it’s testament to his determination to make the grade.

‘It’s become the usual winter programme for me,’ smiled Wright.

‘I’m working hard. I’m up at 5am every morning and I’m working near Dartford. It’s not very nice.

‘This week we’ve been digging up bushes and trees in the pouring rain.

‘After I finish work, I’m off to the driving range or the gym. Then I do it all again the next day.

‘It’s not exactly ideal at the moment but I’ve got to do it to earn the money.

‘I’ve not thought about giving up on golf. It’s hard when things don’t go your way and you have a bad week.

‘But then I think about the job I’m doing at the moment, digging up trees and that sort of thing.

‘No matter how bad a day you have on the golf course, it could always be worse.’

Having turned professional in 2011 after a fine amateur career, Wright has made several appearances on the Challenge Tour and spent most of last season on the EPD Tour – a level below the Challenge Tour with events all across Europe.

But so far, that big week that aspiring professionals need to kick-start their careers has eluded him.

A final position of 25th on the EPD order of merit, five top-10 finishes and prize money of nearly 10,000 Euros is not to be sniffed at.

But take out the travel costs and the associated expenses and there isn’t much left over – if any.

Less sponsorship income this season means Wright must get some cash together from elsewhere and has to adjust his sights on how he can climb the golfing ladder.

He explained: ‘I would have loved to have done it again on the EPD Tour.

‘Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to do that this year.

‘So I will play on the Europro Tour. There are fewer events and not as much money to play for but at least you are driving around the country rather than flying everywhere.

‘It makes it about £250 cheaper every week. It’s pretty expensive to travel around Europe.

‘Last year, I played 16 events out of the 22 and tried to play a bit on the Challenge Tour as well.

‘It didn’t really work trying to play on both tours.

‘I ended up 25th but if I had played those other events on the EPD tour, I might have finished in the top five and got a Challenge Tour card.

‘The problem is that you get given these invites and it’s really hard to turn them down.

‘Everyone wants to play on the highest tour they can but the thing I have learned is that I am probably better off playing a full season on Europro.

‘Then if I finish in the top five and get a Challenge Tour card, great.

‘But if I don’t, then I will know I have given myself the best chance.

‘I’ve got seven invites for the Challenge Tour again this year but my priority is to get promoted from the Europro Tour.’

While Wright hit the heights in amateur golf, winning the Brabazon Trophy in 2010 and several other events, the paid ranks is different.

But it has not shaken his belief that he can bridge the gap.

He said: ‘In an ideal world, I would have hoped to have got through Tour School or to at least have a full Challenge Tour card by this point.

‘As an amateur, it’s easy to think that because you are winning tournaments, you will breeze through it all.

‘The reality is different. I did really well in my first five or six events as a pro and thought it was going to be easy.

‘Then I got to my first full season and saw how much the other players had progressed.

‘On Europro, you have got people who have been on European Tour.

‘They are guys who have been there and done it.

‘The standard shocked me, to be honest. But I know I have got the talent and I know I am good enough.

‘As long as I can fund myself and keep going, I feel like I will get there. I definitely believe that.

‘But I’m looking forward to an exciting season ahead of me.’