Tours of duty

As the 2023 season gets underway, we catch up with six young professionals from across the region as they head out on tour for a busy year of golf

Matty Lamb

Age: 25
Turned pro: 2021
Attachment & sponsors: Brampton & Hexham, FMG Consulting
Amateur highlights: GB&I Walker Cup team 2021, multiple England caps and wins including the Home Internationals

Tell us about your 2022 season: “I’ll admit, performance-wise it was one of my worst years ever. That said, it was an opportunity to learn and understand where I can get better. I had a decent start to the year, almost winning on the EuroPro Tour in the first event of the season, but then I really struggled with my game. It definitely wasn’t the year I wanted, but I’ve always managed to get through slumps and the hard kick has inspired me to get better. I’ve done some good work with my coach Andy Paisley this winter and I’ve been honest about where my game was and where I need to improve. I’d been trying to hit the ball further, but I was struggling and that focus had some detrimental effects on my swing. I’ve worked on those, put some effort into preparing mentally for the new season, and I’m looking forward to getting going again.”

What are your plans in 2023? “Having joined the PGA, and while doing my training at Brampton, I’m planning to play as many PGA events as I can – both locally and nationally. Aside from those, my main focus will be the Clutch Pro Tour. I’m also hoping to play some Challenge Tour events through invites as well. My main goal this season is to get a Challenge Tour card for 2024. Good scores, week-in and week-out, will give me chances to achieve that. It’s been a good reset this winter. I understand that it takes a long time to get better, but I’m confident in what I’m doing. I’m not where I wanted to be at this stage, but last year was a massive step. I had two options – either give up or come back stronger. I’ve been down to the bottom with my game and now I’m ready to appreciate the good stuff and hopefully that shows in my scores.”

James Wilson

Age: 23
Turned pro: 2021
Attachment & sponsors: Tyneside Golf Club, IBS Security Solutions, BBS Golf
Amateur highlights: Battle Trophy winner, Scottish amateur runner-up, Northumberland County champion and Strokeplay winner, Durham County matchplay champion

Tell us about your 2022 season: “My first full year as a professional golfer – having turned pro at the end of the 2021 season, joined the PGA, and secured a full EuroPro Tour card – was a mixed bag. My season on EuroPro was really limited, but getting a top-five and another top-10 early in the year were good results. I had a very strong year locally on the North East & North West PGA circuit, which was great to get involved in and be part of with some top players competing week-in and week-out. Winning the NE/NW Turkey pro am and topping the leaderboard at Turnberry later in the year were big highlights for sure, and it was great to make it through to the Final Stage of Open Qualifying in my first attempt as a pro.”

What are your plans for 2023? “The biggest thing I learned last year was the importance of scheduling. While I’m sad there’s no EuroPro Tour this season, it makes choosing a schedule and concentrating on the right events a lot easier. As a member of the PGA, those events will be my main focus alongside continuing my training at Tyneside. I’ll be playing a lot locally and targeting a few national events, particularly the Assistants’ Championship. The NE/NW PGA has such a packed schedule too and the Mizuno Order of Merit events are great, so I want to play all those and have a good run at that this season. There’s Regional Qualifying for The Open at Goswick as well, a few Tartan Tour events up in Scotland, and then all being well I’ll be heading to DP World Tour Qualifying School at the end of the year – where getting through to second stage and having a category on the Challenge Tour for 2024 would be a good step forward.”

Rhys Thompson

Age: 27
Turned pro: 2018
Attachment & sponsors: Slaley Hall, Instant Clearances, Rosiefest (charity)
Amateur highlights: Multiple national top-10s, Durham County matchplay champion and order of merit winner

Tell us about your 2022 season: “Winning the Leven Links Classic on the Tartan Tour in October was a great way to end the 2022 season. I also had the chance to play in the Asian Tour’s International Series England at Slaley Hall. While I didn’t play my best golf that week, it was an incredible experience. Overall, it felt like a solid year. I learned a lot and finished off strong with the win on the Tartan Tour to carry me into a good winter of practising and improving ahead of the 2023 season.”

What are your plans in 2023? “The Tartan Tour in Scotland will be my main focus this year. The events are getting stronger this season and the courses are fantastic. I’d love to get a second win on the tour and then build on that to become a multiple time winner and step up to the next level. I’ll also be playing a handful of Clutch Pro Tour events throughout the year, but Tartan will be my priority. I’ve also got Open Qualifying to look forward to in the summer and then DP World Tour Q School is always a possibility at the end of the year if I can get the costs to stack up and make the trip worthwhile. I also want to enjoy it this season. My game is in a good spot, I’ve already won once this year on the Portugal Pro Golf Tour and I’m full of confidence going into the UK season.”

Ben Bailey

Age: 23
Turned pro: 2019
Attachment & sponsors: Beal Hire, LJJ Ltd
Amateur highlights: Won a Division 2 NCAA event at PGA National while at Keiser University, semi-finalist for the Jack Nicklaus award, multiple top-10s in college events

Tell us about your 2022 season: “Overall, I think 2022 was a pretty successful year. I focused on the Tartan Tour mainly and had some early success. I dropped down a little through the season, but ended the year in the top-25 on the order of merit. Having picked up my first professional win on the 2020 Pro Tour in 2021, I played some really consistent golf last year and had four second place finishes – on the Tartan Tour at Montrose, twice on the Clutch Pro Tour, and at the Portugal Pro Golf Tour’s Tour Championships – so there were lots of high points during 2022 and to start 2023.”

What are your plans in 2023? “I’ve started my schedule planning around the Tartan Tour, which is well run and hosts events at some great courses across Scotland. The prize funds have gone up this year too, which is great to see, and I’m really looking forward to playing on the tour this year. Open Qualifying is always a big highlight in the summer, and DP World Tour Q School and Asian Tour Q School later in the year are going to be massive with all that’s on the line at those events. I feel that my game is in a good place, I’m just itching to get playing again. There’s lots to play in and the excitement is building to get back out competing in the three-day events. As always, my target is to stay patient and improve every day. If that leads to a step up and something like a Challenge Tour card for 2024 that would be nice.”

Christian Brown

Age: 26
Turned pro: 2021
Attachment & sponsors: Close House
Amateur highlights: Won Northern Counties Qualifying with Northumberland, spent four years as part of the Keiser University team in Florida

Tell us about your 2022 season: “2022 was a mixed year on the course. I played some good golf at the start of the season and ended up with a top-15 finish on the Tartan Tour order of merit – including a second place finish at Dundonald and top-fives at Montrose and Blairgowrie. The year wasn’t as good on the EuroPro Tour. Last season I learned that consistency is a huge part of being a professional golfer. You don’t have to go super-low all the time, but you do need to shoot stable scores which keep you in contention. While blow-out scores are great, you don’t always need them on the toughest courses – three solid rounds can get you right up there most weeks.”

What are your plans in 2023? “I played lots of good individual rounds last season, but I need to have more good weeks and turn those weeks into good runs of events. I’ve got a great ranking on the Tartan Tour through last season’s order of merit, so I’ll be in all those events. I’ll also be ending the year on the Portugal Pro Golf Tour again. I’ve also got DP World Tour Q School in the schedule for the end of the season. Apart from those, it would be great to get through Regional Qualifying for The Open this summer, having played it for the first time last year and just missed out on the playoff by one shot at Goswick. Overall, I want to step up into the top-five of the Tartan Tour order of merit and a couple of wins would make that possible. Last year, I started well, but as I played more events, I dropped off. This year I want to maintain that higher level for longer, hopefully right through the season. Reaching Final Qualifying and the second stage of Q School would be great benchmarks to show that overall improvement.”

Will Marshall

Age: 23
Turned pro: 2023
Attachment & sponsors: Heworth Golf Club, Armstrong Renewables, Marshalls Golf
Amateur highlights: Durham County matchplay and order of merit winner, Durham County Player of the Year

Tell us about your 2022 season: “Last season was my last as an amateur and it was a solid one. I made all but two cuts in the national events I played and won the County Player of the Year award for Durham – winning all my matches. I learned and travelled a lot playing a full schedule of national amateur events and I hope that has put me in a good place to join the professional ranks this season.”

What are your plans for 2023? “Having played on the Portugal Pro Golf Tour as an amateur previously, and as a pro to start this year – picking up T12 and 15th place finishes – I think I’m in a good spot to have an exciting year on the mini tour circuit. My plan in 2023 is to play a full schedule of Tartan Tour events to start with, then I’ll see what comes up throughout the season, including some events on the 2020 Pro Tour. I’m also looking forward to heading back to Open Qualifying as a professional having made it through to Final Qualifying in the past. This is my first year as a pro, so there’s lots to learn and take in. My main goal is to break even for the season. It’s expensive to travel and enter tournaments all over the UK, so I think that will be a good way to measure where I am after year one. Then I can reassess and set some more targets for future seasons.”