Blackey’s return to amateur status earns him first cheque

matt blackey
matt blackey
Meon Valley Golf Club member Harry Ellis

Ellis' pride as he finishes Masters in style

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He claimed eight top-10 finishes on the European Tour – including two fourth places.

The biggest pay day of his career came when he landed sixth spot at the Madrid Open in 2003 to bank nearly 40,000 euros.

And his career earnings add up to more than half-a-million euros, after rubbing shoulders with the top golf stars in the world.

But Matt Blackey took just as much enjoyment from scoring 38 points and winning the gross prize in the Hayling Golf Club monthly medal last week after regaining his amateur status.

And now he’s got a few quid to spend in the pro shop.

The 39-year-old spent six years on the European Tour but, despite hitting the heights that some golfers can only dream of, Blackey has made a courageously frank assessment.

He simply admitted he couldn’t compete against the elite any more and instead pursued a career with TaylorMade, working with young talent.

So after earning his final cheque in a Sun City Pro-Am in 2007, Blackey relinquished his professional status, handed in three cards and turned his attention to the occasional monthly medal.

He explained: ‘I made a decision my pro career was behind me and, as much as I enjoyed it, I had other things to focus on.

‘I had a year of scratching around and I just felt I wasn’t getting better and I was beginning to struggle with injuries.

‘I’d had my time and I wasn’t quite up to the demands of the modern tour pro.

‘One day I woke up thinking about what else I could possibly do and the alarm bells went off.

‘I then got my job with TaylorMade so I enquired to the R&A about how long it would take to get my status back.

‘I had to wait three years, then I put my forms in at the end of 2009 and then had a year to wait.

‘In November of last year I became an amateur again.’

Blackey regained his plus-one handicap after submitting three scorecards and has since been cut after shooting three-under par around his home course at the weekend.

He smiled: ‘I played in my first medal at the weekend and shot 38 points so got my handicap cut straight away!

‘I won the gross prize and won a few quid in the pro shop so I’ll be seeing what I can get for my money.

‘It was a strange feeling. I can’t say I enjoyed it or didn’t enjoy it but I felt a few of the competitive juices coming back again.

‘I’m still competitive and I found myself digging in, which I hadn’t felt for a long time.’

Some ex-professionals would not be able to handle being beaten by players who would not have got near them back in the day.

And Blackey admits pride is still a big factor.

He said: ‘There is a certain amount of pride attached, which is why I was so chuffed to win the gross prize at the weekend.

‘All the same guys still want to beat me but that competitive element helped me get on tour.

‘I didn’t go out wanting to make up the numbers, so to shoot three under was pretty pleasing.

‘I’ve got over the fact I can’t pull off shots I used to be able to quite as regularly and, if you can accept that, it frees you to just enjoy playing the game again.’

While his career earnings would suggest he is now living in the lap of luxury, expenses and the tax man have taken their fair share.

He said: ‘People may look at my career earnings and think I’m loaded – sadly, I’m not. It’s amazing where it goes.

‘Although my one regret is not playing in The Open, I had a decent career.

‘If you’d told me when I was starting out that I would play on tour for six years and play in 200 events, I’d have snapped your hand off.

‘I have some fantastic memories but now I want to succeed in my new career.

‘And who knows, maybe I can qualify for The Open as an amateur?

‘But for now, I’m quite happy with a monthly medal now and again.’