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Not a good time for Wales!

By Neville Leck Last updated: 20th November 2012

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Rhys Davies

Rhys Davies

What with Wales losing its last two rugby matches to Argentina and Samoa, Welsh sport isn't in a good place right now - and some golf news this past weekend has hardly helped.

It was bad enough that veteran stalwart Bradley Dredge missed the cut at the UBS Hong Open on Friday evening and with it any hope of retaining his European Tour card.

But it was perhaps worse still when, on Sunday, Rhys Davies, who no more than two years ago used a red-hot putter to bank more than £1m in prize money and was being described by some as the future new face of Welsh golf, also failed to hold on to his European Tour card.

In the 27-year-old Davies' case he went agonisingly close, missing out by a single stroke.

A level-par total would have seen him retain his Tour card, but instead he finished the event at 1-over after a closing 70 and ended his season just a heartbreaking £634 short of what he so desperately needed.

His slide back into the unenviable position of having to fight his way back onto the European Tour via the Tour's cut-throat Q-School must have come as a shock, both to Davies himself and to those many supporters who saw such huge potential in him when he came blazing out of US College golf as a graduate of East Tennessee State University in 2010, ready to set the European Tour alight.

He won the Hassan Trophy in Morocco after a final day shoot-out with an in-form South African Louis Oosthuizen, who would then go on to claim the Open Championship at St Andrews, and next took World No 2 Luke Donald all the way to the tape at the Madrid Masters before finishing runner-up to the Englishman.

And there was more to come.

Only seven days later he posted a blistering 62 on the Celtic Manor's Twenty Ten Course, where the Ryder Cup was next set to be played, to claim second place in the Wales Open behind Graeme McDowell, who not too many weeks later would be crowned the 2010 US Open champion.

These heroics lifted the exciting new Welsh prospect to a stunning 45th in the world rankings in his first season on the European Tour and it was not unexpected that some suggested that he could even win a place in Colin Montgermerie's Ryder Cup team that would defeat the USA at Celtic Manor in September of 2010.

Davies didn't quite make it, but he must have come close, for along with that triumph in Morocco and those close finishes in Madrid and Celtic Manor, a runners-up spot at the Volvo China Open, a third place finish at the Malaysian Open and sixth place in Abu Dhabi saw him burst through the £1m barrier as a rookie professional.

But then, as so often can happen in golf, when everything was looking so rosy, Davies saw it turn on him and bite him in the backside.

A slump in 2012 has seen him finish in 121st place and instead of heading on to Dubai this week for the DP World Tour Championship, Davies, who played alongside World No 1 Rory McIlroy for Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup, will be joining Dredge at the European Tour's Qualifying School at the PGA Catalunya Resort in Girona, Spain, from November 24-29.

Dredge slide isn't as surprising as Davies' given that he is now 39 and admits to the fact that after a tough year, he has been thinking quite hard about his future.

Yet, for the former World Cup winner, 2006 European Masters champion and one of Wales's leading professionals in the 12 successive years he has been a member of the European Tour, his tumble out of the European Tour for the first time since 1996 has nevertheless come as something of body blow to Welsh golf.

But the ups and downs and current woes of Davies and Dredge once more underline the agonies and ecstasies of one of the toughest of all professional sports.

Yes, there are huge rewards for the winners, to be sure.

Not counting his sponsorship income from the likes of Nike, McIlroy this year has earned well in excess of $8 million and, whichever way you look at it, that's an awful lot of prize money for a 23-year-old!

At the other end of the scale, for those missing the halfway cut that in most weeks reduces fields of about 150 to a little over half of that, there is no reward at all. They don't earn a cent.

So for every one McIlroy, there are hundreds of professional golfers , be it on the US PGA and European Tours, or the Asian, the Sunshine or the Australian Tours, who each week have to battle the odds, barely able to pay for their accommodation and travelling expenses.

There are also a good few seasoned golfing gladiators who have been there and done it all, including winning a major, but who have subsequently lost their way and like Davies and Dredge, have needed to go back to Q School and start all over again.

Mind you, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of either Davies or Dredge. Nor of the Welsh rugby team. Welsh sportsmen tend to be pugnacious; they don't give up all that easily.

Neville Leck



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