Saturday 29 April 2017

Smyth hopes big names bring big gains for rookies

Smyth: New role. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile
Smyth: New role. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Des Smyth launched his professional career on a base of faith, hope and a bank overdraft of £6,000 courtesy of an understanding bank manager.

The year was 1974. Smyth was 20 years old, the European Tour was in its infancy and there was no other funding option available.

"There was very little sponsorship in those days. You really had to finance yourself," said Smyth. "I did it with a bank overdraft. I remember I told him (the bank manager) I was in business, in the sporting arena.

"£6,000, in 1974, you can work that out, it's quite a lot of money. That's how I started out and that's how I survived. You had to graft and find a way of making money as best you could."

Almost 43 years later, with a successful career that still continues on the European Senior Tour, Smyth considers himself semi-retired and has the time to take on a new challenge as Leader of Team Ireland Golf under the auspices of the Confederation of Irish Golf.

Smyth will spearhead a fund-raising Pro-Am to be played at Luttrellstown Castle on Monday, July 10 - the day after the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart.

"It's incumbent on us to make sure we have enough finance in place to support players coming through from the amateur to the professional ranks," he said.

"There is a grey area for a few years where guys and girls need support if they're going to try and break through and make it on Tour because it's a very tough place.

"I'm happy to say that I've spoken with Paul McGinley and he's 100pc behind it. He's assured me that he'll be there on the day."

The plan is to seek from 20-24 amateur teams and attract as many high-profile professionals as possible. Former Tour pro Peter Lawrie, now director of golf at Luttrellstown, looks forward to hosting the event.

Smyth, a former Ryder Cup player and vice-captain, will also act as a mentor to the fledgling professionals, male and female as they make the transition from the amateur game to life on Tour.

Gary Hurley, who turned pro in September 2015 after playing on the GB and Ireland team which defeated the USA, was present at the announcement. He is a Team Ireland beneficiary and welcomed this new initiative.

"When you're with the GUI it's great, everything is taken care of, the accommodation, flights, practice rounds, tee times," he said. "As a pro, it will be great to have Des to consult and ask him his opinion, especially about corporate stuff because he's been through it all."

Irish Independent

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