Victorian Richard Green will turn his attention to a return to Europe after his dream of joining the lucrative Champions Tour in the United States was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Closing in on his 50th birthday on February 19, Green had planned to attend the Champions Tour qualifying school at the end of 2020, a qualifying path that was closed when the PGA TOUR decided to extend the 2020 season into a 40-tournament wraparound schedule that will culminate with the Charles Schwab Cup Championship starting November 11 at the Phoenix Country Club in Arizona.
Former PGA TOUR winners Stuart Appleby (May 1) and Robert Allenby (July 12) will be eligible to join the 2021 Champions Tour rookie class but Green will have to wait an extra 12 months with the 2021 qualifying school finals scheduled to take place in Florida from December 5.
“I had planned on going to Q School because you’re eligible to go in your 49th year,” Green explained.
“You’re not eligible to go and play on tour until you turn 50 so my plan was to go, get the card and then wait until I turn 50 and then start playing.
“Not to be unfortunately.”
A three-time winner on the European Tour and boasting more than €10 million in career earnings, Green can skip qualifying for the European Tour’s rebranded Legends Tour, eligible to play from the first event of the year, the Riegler & Partner Legends Pro-Am in Austria commencing May 7.
It’s an appealing fallback for the two-time ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia winner but the uncertainty around international travel remains a consideration.
“I’ll be eligible to play in Europe without any qualifying so my plan was to go back to Europe and play some senior events,” said Green.
“But I’ve travelled for 30 years of my life around the world playing golf in a time when it was relatively comfortable, without any of the hassles that we’ve now got going on.
“Do you really want to go?
“I heard what happened to Stephen Leaney when he flew back into Adelaide and had to go into hotel quarantine. He was worried about getting it in quarantine as opposed to not even getting it while he was in America or on the plane home.
“It’s just a matter of whether you want to continue while all of those things are in place. Having to get tested all the time, the restrictions around events, living in a bubble, not really having much of a life compared to what we used to have. Do you really want to go away and do that again? That’s going to be the big question.
“I still love the game like crazy and do what I need to do to get the enjoyment out of it but do I enjoy the travel? That’s a different question.
“That’s a whole different ball game.”
Tied for 20th at the ISPS HANDA Vic Open in February, Green divided his time in 2020 between playing golf at home at Thirteenth Beach on the Bellarine Peninsula and working for a mate three days a week balancing pH levels and checking chlorinators in his swimming pool servicing business.
Disappointed that his own plans have been put on hold, Green sympathises more with the young players who have had their start of their careers interrupted so significantly.
“It’s been a pretty tough year for everybody,” Green said.
“I feel pretty hard for the young guys that are just starting their careers or just starting to establish themselves with a generational opportunity to get to the top. In some ways they have had that slowed down a lot and whether it will ever be the same, I don’t know.
“I still have a goal of playing the senior tour and I still have a goal to play on the Champions Tour in America but I just don’t know for how long now.
“I was hoping to get started pretty much straight away as you turn 50 and to reap the benefits of being one of the younger ones out there as opposed to the older guys.
“But each year that passes when you’re a senior can be more and more costly on your body and things like that, depending on how you go.”