Climb every mountain

It’s been seven years since Andy Scrimshaw became a professional golfer and in that time he’s learned a great deal about what it takes to reach the top levels of the sport. Dean Bailey meets him to discuss the highs and lows of his journey so far

Being a golf professional can take many forms. For a very select group, it’s a life of travelling the world playing for millions of euros or dollars every week; for others it’s spending time with golfers of all ages and abilities as the heart of a golf club. Others are full-time coaches, some move into managing golf facilities. For Andy Scrimshaw, it’s been a journey of hard work, sacrifice and determination.

A trained PGA professional, in 2017 Andy chose to leave behind a stable coaching and events role at Close House along with playing on the local PGA circuit to further his ambitions to play full time on the European Tour. “It’s definitely a tough road and one which isn’t particularly secure, but it’s the right route for me,” he says. “While I enjoy coaching and it’s a great career option, I love playing and if you want it enough, you make it work.

“Since giving up that stable income, my hunger to achieve my dream of playing full time has gone through the roof. I graft even harder than I have in the past because I have to make this work. The easy option would be to go back to what I was doing, but I’m not going to do that when I still believe I can make it to the European Tour.”

Andy, who is still attached to Close House and practises there when at home, has chosen to focus on the Alps Tour, the path successfully navigated by Chris Paisley en-route to becoming a European Tour winner. This year will be his third travelling across Europe. “I’m really happy playing on the Alps Tour. There’s a lot of travel involved, this year there are 18 events in 11 different countries, but you learn far more about what it takes to be a top player going to these tournaments.”

His 2018 Alps Tour campaign included leading into the final round of the Alps de Andalucia event before finishing in a tie for seventh – his best Alps Tour result to-date. He was also a regular contender in local NE/NW PGA pro ams when back at home in Ryton. To-date he has 11 NE/NW PGA pro am wins.

Having grown up at Prudhoe Golf Club surrounded by some of Northumberland’s best amateurs, Andy excelled as a junior in the county system. He was playing off scratch and received his first county cap at 16. He was among the best players in the North East by the age of 18, when he chose to leave a mechanical engineering degree at Northumbria University to take a job as an assistant pro at Close House – an unplanned career move that turned into the first step on his path to the European Tour.

In 2017, having qualified as a PGA professional and gone on to split his time between playing, teaching and working on events, he chose to concentrate on his playing career.

“When I turned pro, I was a decent county player, but looking back now, I was nowhere near good enough to be a professional,” he admits.

“I’ve learned so much about the game at this level and my understanding is now so much higher than it was even two years ago.”

While still supported by a handful of loyal sponsors, his parents and his partner Hayley, playing on the Alps Tour comes at a cost.

“Hayley and I make sacrifices for me to be able to play in events all over Europe and it would be so much tougher if she wasn’t at home supporting me. My parents have always been there for me too, from playing in national events as a junior to travelling as a pro.”

Not one to shy away from the challenge – despite many people questioning him over the last seven years – in 2018 Andy set up Albatross Events with fellow PGA professional Martyn Jobling to help fund his playing career. The company hosts amateur pairs competitions across the region and will host a pro am at Le Golf National later this year.

“Playing expenses can get up towards £30,000 and while sponsorship is really important and I can’t thank all my sponsors enough, I needed to create another income stream between playing seasons.

“Hosting tuition weeks adds another stream and then prize money is added in. It’s a lot of different things to juggle but it gives the flexibility I need,” he explains.

Andy’s 2019 season begins this month with a European PGA event, which he’ll fly to immediately after an Albatross event at Newbiggin. While he is fully aware of how tough the year ahead is going to be, his game is in great shape after hours of he calls “cold-weather training” at home.

“When I turned pro, I was very naïve and I thought I was better than I actually was.

“The most important thing you need is grit. It’s not easy to be a pro, it’s tough financially, it’s tough when you see your friends buying flash cars and bigger houses, but this is when you see who really wants it.”

Andy has spent a great deal of time with his long-time coach Andy Paisley and mentor Steve Black in the last two years to find a new level of his game.

“When I was working at Close House, I was still practising hard at the end of the day or on my day off, but I wasn’t practising smart. I’ve always been capable of beating balls but I was searching for what to do. It took nearly six years as a pro to work it out.

“Since then I’ve found far more consistency and learned about the highs and lows of my own game. I’ve learned how to take out those bad days, make them average days and keep having the really good days.

“I’ve gone through that period of searching and I understand where I’m heading thanks to all the work we’ve done.”

Having found his feet as a professional, and with his game in the best place it’s ever been in, Andy is full of confidence heading into 2019.

“The average age to make it onto the European Tour is right around 30,” he says. “I’m four years from that and I feel like I’m in position to get there. The road hasn’t been easy, but my determination is as strong as it ever has been.

“Winning the lottery or getting a big sponsorship would be lovely, but I’ve got my cards in front of me and I’m going to do my absolute best with them. The only thing I can control is how hard I work.

“If the time comes to give it all up, I’ll know the day I don’t set my alarm to go to the gym at 6am or I don’t head to the range when there’s snow on the ground. Until then I’ll just keep working hard.”

With such great support behind him and an unyielding determination to reach the highest levels of the game, we certainly won’t be betting against him.