Oliver Farr: Welsh golfer aims to make numbers add up on European Tour

By Gareth VincentBBC Sport Wales
Oliver Farr: Welsh golfer aiming to shine on European Tour

The booming drives and lengthy putts are matched by mighty prizes at the summit of European golf.

But for the many players whose first target is merely to secure a place on tour, the sport is not always glamorous.

"We live a nice life in the sense that we go to lots of nice places and we get looked after extremely well at tournaments," says Oliver Farr, the world number 295.

"But it is our job. It is financially challenging at times and we need support through sponsors and stuff like that.

"If that doesn't quite happen, it can be tough."

Farr, 31, recently began his third crack at the European Tour having secured a card for 2020.

The Welshman previously reached the elite in 2015 and 2018 but on each occasion lost his card after one season.

The hope is for a different story this year.

"I have got friends I played amateur golf with who are now European Tour stars," Farr says.

"They are living the life I want to live, but at the moment I have to try to get there. I have got some work to do to get to that stage. I just want to be the best golfer I can be."

Oliver Farr
Oliver Farr finished tied-sixth at the Challenge Tour Grand Final in November 2019 to seal his European Tour return

Farr reclaimed his card by finishing in the top 15 - he was 12th - on the Challenge Tour in 2019.

The rewards on the European Tour are much greater than on the second-tier Challenge Tour, but there are also bigger costs.

Gaining a European Tour card means an outlay of around £100,000 for players like Farr, who must pay for travel and accommodation as well as a caddy.

Farr plays at the South African Open this week, his third event of the 2020 season.

He missed the cut at the Alfred Dunhill Championship - meaning no earnings that week - then won 2,650 euro courtesy of a 63rd-place finish in Mauritius.

In a season where Farr is likely to play around 30 events, there is pressure on to deliver prize money.

But in a sport renowned for its own mental challenges, Farr does not allow himself to think about finances when he has club in hand.

"I have had times where I have missed a putt and then thought after a round, 'that putt's cost me that much'," he concedes.

"But you can't think about it on the course because you will be a nervous wreck."

Farr is based in Hereford but has followed father Graham, another professional golfer who is now his coach, in representing Wales.

A pro since 2011, he has a point to prove on the European Tour, where his best result was tied-seventh in the 2018 Shot Clock Masters in Austria.

"I feel like the two previous years I have had on the European Tour, I have not fulfilled my potential," Farr says.

"I feel like there is unfinished business."

Farr's return to the tour is particularly impressive given that he played only 15 events in 2019, with his playing time limited by the birth of his second child and family bereavements.

The highlight of last season was a victory in Morocco, while Farr held his nerve at the season-ending grand final in Majorca having started the week in the last of the Challenge Tour's 15 qualification spots.

Now Farr must try to compete on the European Tour, which he regards as considerably more demanding.

"I think there's a big gulf," Farr says.

"On the European Tour the rough is tougher, the pins are tucked away and the greens are firmer, so you have to play better basically.

"The guys who have been out on tour for years and years are just consistently better than guys on the Challenge Tour."

Nevertheless, Farr points out, there are numerous examples of Challenge Tour graduates winning events at the higher level.

Oliver Farr
Oliver Farr missed only one cut in the 15 Challenge Tour events he played in 2019

Perhaps he could be that player this year?

"There are goals you can set - top 100, trying to keep your card, a win," Farr adds.

"But it's a week-to-week process and it's a long season. I think in the past I have focused on the top 110 (in the rankings) and it's not worked. I have got to look at other ways to set my goals."

One target would be qualification for one of golf's four major championships, to add to Farr's appearance at the 2015 US Open.

"The majors are a great buzz," he says.

"They are where you want to play - against the best golfers in the world.

"Unfortunately I didn't play as well as I would have wanted in 2015 but I feel if I get in that situation again, I'd be better because of experience."

Farr, Wales' current number one, hopes lessons of the past will pay dividends throughout 2020.

"I have a family to look after," he says, "and this is only way I feel I can do that.

"But once you get on the plane you have to focus on the tournament. The money side of things - hopefully the bank manager will take care of that."

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