European Tour History

STRAFFAN, IRELAND - JULY 08: Colin Montgomerie of Scotland lines up a putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the Smurfit Kappa European Open on July 8, 2007 on the Smurfit Course at the K Club in Straffan, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)International golf is basically managed by the US-based Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour and the secondary PGA European Tour.

The European Tour is the primary golf tour in Europe, Asia and Africa, but it is the poorer relation to the celebrated PGA Tour which manages and controls all golf events in theUSA.

Apart from operating the three leading golf events in Europe – the European Tour, the European Seniors Tour and the Challenge Tour – the PGA European Tour also conducts Ryder Cup Matches in co-operation with the American PGA.

The Dawn of the European Tour

As most of you know, professional golf has its beginnings in Scotland, and the very first stroke play tournament was The Open Championship which began in 1860. This event was for pro golfers only and attracted a field of just eight.

Over the next few decades the number of official events with prize money increased slowly but surely throughout continental Europe and Britain. The growth in professional golf was, however, hampered by the fact that all events were organised independently by the individual golf clubs, associations or commercial promoters – there was no one influential body overseeing the sport in Europe.

This was destined to change, and in 1972 European Tour history was kicked off when the Professional Golfers Association formed the European PGA Tour. What is remarkable is that the PGA Tour of America had already been formed as early as the 1930s!

Initially the tour was based in Great Britain and Ireland, with national opens in Western Europe, but the tour continued to lengthen and expand globally.

  • In 1972 there was a total of 20 tournaments, 12 were held in the UK, one in Ireland and seven in Western Europe.
  • In 2008 there are a total of 51 events scheduled – one of which is the European Open. Three will be held in China, one in Hong Kong, three in South Africa, two in India, two in the United Arab Emirates and one each in Australia, New Zealand, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea. The remainder will be held in Europe.

The Downside of the European Tour

As already mentioned, the home-grown European Tour has always played second fiddle to the US PGA Tour, and many an emerging European golfer has been snaffled up by the richer purses and dominance of the American tour.

Not only do the young stars stand to earn a lot more prize money, but they often opt to train on US-style courses in preparation for the three majors held on US soil – the US Masters Golf Tournament, the US Open Golf Championship and the US PGA Championships. Another factor is that many US universities offer golf sports scholarships, something their British counterparts have yet to consider.

In an effort to encourage young Europeans to remain at home, the European Tour offered an incentive known as the “Volvo Bonus Pool” from 1988 to 1998. This was, in effect, extra prize money which was doled out to the most successful players on the circuit, but only players who contested more European Tour events than PGA Tour events were eligible.

The European Tour Matures

In 1998 the European Tour pulled off a real coup – for the first time it could add the three majors played in the US to its schedule. Not only did the plentiful prize money now count towards the European Tour Order of Merit, which in turn would positively affect the end-of-season world ranking points, but it would be easier for the top golfers to retain their membership on both tours.

For many years the minimum number of events each player had to contest to retain membership of the European Tour was 11 per year. With the inclusion of the three majors and the three World Golf Championships it meant that they only had to take part in four European tournaments.

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