Monday, October 3, 2011
Danny Lee; headed for the Big Tour
Danny Lee will be feeling pleased with himself on a warm Sunday night in Texas. He's had his first tournament win as a professional, and in doing so has sewn up his card for the PGA Tour for next season.
Out in golf's netherworld (from the second-tier Nationwide Tour down) the PGA Tour is known universally as the Big Tour, and it's the Holy Grail for professional golfers. Lee has played a full season on the Nationwide Tour, and it's been a good move. The top 25 money-earners on the Nationwide win places on the Big Tour for next season. Danny Lee started the day at 14th on the money list, and 80% likely to be headed for the promised land. A few hours later, he's now at 4th on the Nationwide Tour money list, and his destination for 2012 has been confirmed. Danny Lee pockets a cheque for US$94,500 for his win in the WNB Classic, and his season's earnings are now US$271,700; a good year, by anyone's standards.
But far greater riches await him. On the Big Tour today, players battled it out at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, one of the lesser events on the tour. Winner Kevin Na took home US$792,000 for the win, out of a total prize purse of US$4.4m. By contrast Lee and his Nationwide Tour mates were playing for a total prize pool of just US$525,ooo. The top 15 players in the PGA Tour event all earned more than Danny Lee did.
Naturally, it won't be easy for Lee on the Big Tour, and he will have to be amongst the top 125 money earners for the year to keep his playing privileges. South African Tim Clark currently occupies that sport, with season's earnings of US$571,000. But by focusing on the Nationwide Tour this year rather than jumping between it, Europe and Asia, Danny Lee has prepared well for his shot at the big-time.
There are four events left on the Nationwide Tour this year, including the Tour Championship, where the top 30 players will compete for a prize pool of US$1million. Lee's focus will be to finish as high up the order as possible; when tour cards are handed out, they are done in finishing order, and the higher you are ranked, the more tournaments you have a chance of entering in the new season.
It's been a roller-coaster ride for Danny Lee. From being the then-youngest ever winner of the US Amateur and winning on the European Tour as an amateur, Lee has struggled with the harsh and often cut-throat realities of playing golf for a living. He's done some hard yards in the last three years, and we hope that his next tilt at the Big Tour is successful. It will be great to have a Kiwi teeing it up with the likes of Phil, Tiger Rory and Vijay once again.