Birthday presents probably don’t come any better than playing golf for Europe in a major team event on a magnificent golf course on the other side of the world.
That’s how top county golfer Ryan Evans will be celebrating his 27th birthday today as he competes against Asia in the Sir Michael Bonallack Trophy in India.
But he admits he is still unsure what will be his ultimate reward in the sport...
Making correct decisions on the golf course is something Ryan Evans has been doing for a long time, and especially over the last 18 months whilst representing England across the world.
After climbing into the top 10 in the world amateur rankings, the Wellingborough Golf Club member now faces the biggest decision of his career; whether to stay as an amateur or turn professional?
Whilst there is little doubt he has all the assets to be successful in the professional ranks, the choice isn’t as straightforward as it looks for the 27-year-old.
Evans, who claimed three top prizes in Australia at the start of 2014, explained: “I haven’t got a European Tour card because I just missed out on making it through to the final stage of qualifying last year.
“I could try and get a card on the EuroPro Tour School in April, but I would start at the bottom of the pro ranks. Yes, it would be a stepping stone but I think I can compete at a higher level.”
So, why would amateur golf be a better alternative? After all, he wouldn’t be able to earn any money through competing in the sport.
But that’s ignoring the hard work Evans has already put in just to play for England, whose selectors prefer to invest their time, effort and money into youngsters, not golfers aged in their mid-20s.
For a man who has excelled for his club, county and regional teams for a number of years, Evans wants to make the most of his time in the international arena.
He said: “If I stayed as an amateur, I might have the St. Andrews Trophy, which is GB&I against Europe, at the start of the season. That’s a big team event to be selected for.
“Then there is the Eisenhower Trophy in Japan, which is the top three in England. So that would be another good one to put on my CV, which would be great for potential future sponsors or management companies.
“I get to travel the world and most of it is free. I’m almost living a professional lifestyle. These days the kids in the under 16’s and under 18’s squads are like ‘professional amateurs’.
“They get all the top coaching, they travel all around the world and it’s all paid for. So would you want to turn pro and find your own money?
“Yes, it would be nice to earn the money, but until you feel you are ready, you might as well stay doing what you are doing.
“I’m not saying I’m not ready because I feel ready and if I had gained a Challenge Tour card last year, I would have turned pro but I missed out and didn’t get any category.
“Therefore it’s going to be difficult for me to turn pro and then have nothing to play in. I could float around and play Jamega Tour or EuroPro and earn a bit of cash.
“But, if I can compete at the top of amateur golf, it might get me some invites on the Challenge Tour or the main European Tour. And then I could try and gain a card on the back of those invites, by doing well.”
However, after taking a year off from his full time job with Avon, where he works on the sales database management team, his earning capacity has reduced significantly.
With amateur rules dictating that he can’t be paid to play the sport, through prize money, advertising or sponsorship, Evans admits he could face some tricky moments this season.
He admitted: “I’ve put my job on hold for a year. I had to because the Australian trip in January and February would have wiped out almost all my holiday entitlement.
“And with trips to follow to Spain and India I might have been in this country for just three weeks in the first three months of the year.
“It was a difficult decision, but since making myself available to the England selectors, I’ve been picked for more events. I’ve been able to focus more on my golf and I’m playing well.
“I probably knew I was going to take a break from my job for a year, so I’ve been saving up some money for a little while so I can fund myself.
“I’m alright now, but my job earned the money for me to play golf. So I might need to look for part time work if the funds get a bit lower.”
So, inevitably, it comes back to the financial constraints; can he afford to play amateur golf and not have a regular income?
And this could still be an issue even if Evans decides to enter the pro ranks, because the revenue needed for a tour golfer to make a decent living is considerable.
According to Oundle member Kit Alexander, who researched the topic in his journalistic role for Today’s Golfer Magazine, a player might need to earn around £50,000 just to break even.
Evans said: “That’s where the dilemma is because if someone came along and said; ‘how much would a season cost for you to compete on the Challenge Tour or the Jamega Tour? I will fund it for you’, then I’ve got a big decision to make.
“A golfer needs this kind of backing. So they can go onto the course with no worries that if they miss the cut they don’t have to worry about paying for the flight home or the hotel.
“Having sponsorship leads to a free mind, less pressure and more of a chance of making the cut the following week.
“You could have the best amateur golfer in England receiving £30,000 to turn pro, but someone not as good, but who knows a millionaire that can shell out £50K – who is better off?
“I have spoken to a couple of management companies but nothing solid at the moment. But I currently number one in the Golf Week world rankings and I’m consistently in the top 15 of the official rankings.
“A lot of management companies will get these print outs every week, and look to see who is there.
“They want someone who has done it all at amateur level, has a proven track record and will be able to compete at the highest standard and put in the results.
“If I win some more tournaments, like the English Amateur or the Brabazon and get picked for the World Team Championships, my name will get thrown around a bit more and attract the bigger companies.
“I’ve made a good start to the year. I just went out to Australia and played golf. I’m a big believer that if it’s meant to be your day, you will get the breaks. Hopefully I will get some more breaks in my career.”