With only one finish outside the top 10 in his six starts on the Big Easy Tour this year, Michael Palmer is nicely poised ahead of the final regular season event this week and the following week’s Tour Championship.
He’s in fifth spot on the Order of Merit after a share of sixth in the King’s Cup in Swaziland, and with the top 30 players contesting the 54-hole Tour Championship at The Els Club Copperleaf after the final 36-hole event at Glendower on Tuesday, he’s certain of being in the mix when it comes to topping the season-long race – and getting one of the five spots up for grabs on the Sunshine Tour as a reward.
“I’d like to continue the same form, I think with the same game plan,” he said. “Just constantly try to get top-10s, top-fives, and you’re bound to keep turning over cash and stay above the rest of the guys on the Order of Merit.”
Palmer, 25, is one of the older rookies on the Big Easy Tour, and he brings a commensurate maturity to his efforts to make a living as a tournament professional. “I went to Oklahoma City University for four years,” he said. “Lots of South Africans, like Anthony Michael, Tyrone van Aswegen, Jacques Blaauw, have been though there. And then I worked for the next couple of years and decided I needed to start playing golf again, and I came home.
“I came back from the United States in December, and to come and have this tour this year has helped me tremendously. Because I was working for the previous two years, I didn’t have too much tournament practice, so I think a year on the Big Easy Tour now is definitely going to help me towards next year on the Sunshine Tour and hopefully, The European Tour.
“I’d like to use the Big Easy Tour to try and guarantee a Sunshine Tour card. I’ll still go to the Qualifying School to try and get a better ranking. Obviously with a better ranking, you’ll get more starts. But I’m actually going to go to Portugal for the First Qualifying Stage Section C at Ribagolfe in Lisbon at the end of this month. That’s my main goal, but for now, I’m putting in the work on the Big Easy Tour to get ready for the end of the year.”
Palmer is different from many who try their hand at earning a living as a tournament professional in that he is willing and able to put in the hard yards to learn his trade. “The Sunshine Tour is a great way to get ready for the bigger stage, especially if you go through the steps of the Big Easy Tour and learn how to win tournaments there and how to compete successfully on the Order of Merit,” he said.
“So even if you’re having a bad week, make sure that you win some money so that you can move forward for the rest of the year. I think the same applies on the Sunshine Tour: You’ve got the winter tour events, and then the summer events and they link you up with The European Tour. It’s all a long progression of taking your career to the next level.”
Having that attitude is a definite bonus, but grinding can often be nothing without passion. “I wasn’t happy working, and I knew I was working while other people were playing at my passion,” he said. “My passion is golf, and I spend hours every day playing golf. I love it and never get tired of it and I want to make a career out of it.
“Obviously the scary thing is that it’s a huge investment. There’s no solid, guaranteed income. And especially in the beginning, there’s no money to live on – until you make it on the Sunshine Tour. So you really just have to trust you’re doing the right thing. In fact, you’re just looking for one break, one week, and it can all take off from there. Look at a guy like Branden Grace. Obviously he’s a great player, but it took just one big win on the Sunshine Tour and that led to many big wins on The European Tour and now he’s contending in majors. So you’ve just got to stay patient.
“I’m not sure if the younger guys on the tour don’t have maturity, but I know that two years of working have given me a huge push to succeed on the Big Easy Tour,” he said.
There’s one tournament to go ahead of the Tour Championship, and then we will see if Palmer’s approach has worked.