While we’ve been delighted to witness the achievements of Steph Kyriacou (LPGA) and Andrew Evans (Winning Japanese Q School) in the last couple of weeks, graduating from Q School requires meticulous preparation and planning – much like going for your dream job.
Over the last few months, several international tours have resumed their annual qualifying tournaments, or Q Schools as they are commonly known.
Q School (or Tour School) provides an opportunity for elite amateurs and professionals to compete for playing rights for the following year.
Essentially, Q- school is a job interview; players are trying to secure employment for the following year by gaining an all-important category – or ranking – based on their golf game over a just a few critical weeks.
The reality in professional golf, though, is you are a contractor to the tour as the tour does not employ you. By going to the tour school (job interview), you are looking to earn the right to enter the employer’s job site to “ply your trade”.
So how do Q Schools compare?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Which job should I apply for?
Anyone looking to enter the workforce for the first time needs to determine what role and company you wish to pursue.
Depending on what your CV looks like, you may start looking for an entry-level job at a lower tier company. If you have excelled, you might be head-hunted by a top tier company or offered an internship to see if you are a suitable employee.
If you have few qualifications (i.e., haven’t done much as an amateur), you may need to consider starting at pay-for-play mini-tours.
Jobs at this level generally don’t even require you to go through an interview (q school). Pay the employer, and they will let you work at their company.
The next level up is an interview at a lower tier company.
Examples include the Asian Development Tour, Alps Tour (Europe), Abema Tour (Japan) or a slightly higher Tier 3 tour like the MacKenzie Tour (Canada) and Latino Tour (South America).
It might be the Ladies European Tour Access Series or China LPGA for the Women.
The next move might be into middle-tier companies (Tier 2 Tours).
If you have earned some decent qualifications (amateur career) or proven yourself on a development tour, you could apply for a job at these companies.
Suppose you have some outstanding qualifications ( international playing record as an amateur or an accomplished record on a development Tour). In this case, a large company (i.e. a major tour) may head-hunt you and provide you with a form of an internship, for example, sponsor invites.
Offers like the above, albeit rare, are only offered to one or two “outliers” each year. They are, however, an ideal opportunity to skip the job interview.
Do well during the internship and meet the employer standards, and they will give you a job for the following year.
When deciding what job to look for, one critical item to investigate is “where can this job take me in the future?”
Many smaller companies (Tours) have links with larger companies. If you do well at the smaller company, you could well skip the interview and land a job at the larger company for the following year.
Another thing to look at is what type of culture would you want to work in and what working environment suits your golfing skill set.
You might like the food, weather, culture, or your game might suit where one company is located globally compared to another.
In the end, you need to enjoy where you work as this can impact your on-the-job performance.
Before applying for a job (enter tour school), you need a CV.
In the “real world,” a CV lists various personal information, academic achievements, qualifications and skills, previous job roles and experience, awards and personal interests.
The CV is like a marketing/sales pitch about yourself to a prospective employer. You hope that your CV and your cover letter get you noticed and leads to an interview.
Although you don’t need a CV for the tour school, you need to enter (the cover letter). As most major tour q schools have multiple stages, your golf CV may determine what q school stage you need to enter.
If your golf CV shows you don’t have many qualifications (amateurs) or significant professional experience (professionals), you will likely have to start in stage 1.
You may, like in the case of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying process, be required to attend a pre-qualifying (an interview) to even get on the list to be able to enter Stage 1.
Those that held a job on the tour the previous year but didn’t meet the standard set by the employer or have had outstanding success at an amateur level will likely be able to go to the second or final interview (2nd stage or final stage).
The reality of pro golf is that nobody cares about your CV at tour school.
You don’t move to the top of the list because of how good your CV looks; everyone starts from the same place.
Some more popular companies hold first-round interviews at multiple locations, even international places because they have so many people applying for their jobs.
When this happens, candidates can become very strategic about where they would like to go for their interview. They will consider the interview location, who will interview them (e.g. the suitability of the course and conditions to their game), and the strength of the other candidates present.
How well do I need to interview?
How well you have to do depends on how many people the company is looking to employ at each interview round.
They could be looking to only employ as many as 14-20 out of the 80-120 that get an interview.
Generally, 40-50 people will get a job if you get to the final stage.
Remember that that might be 40-50 out of over 1,000 people who began the interview process.
Getting the Job
Even if you were good enough to get a job, not all jobs are created equal!
Depending on how well you did (where you finished in the field), your job is categorized.
Between the winner and the players towards the bottom of the list, you move through various levels of work guarantee (starts in events).
If you finished the number one interviewer (winner of the q school), you are generally guaranteed a job at the company for the entire year.
If you are towards the end, you may get a “card” at some companies, but you are not guaranteed work.
This could mean you have to go and earn an “entry ticket” at a Monday pre-q venue by beating 80-100 other non-categorized workers.
Generally, at pre-q’s, there are between four and ten players who “earn work” for the week.
The employer will often have probationary periods throughout the year.
Known as re-rank periods, you will be guaranteed work at a set amount of job sites for that re-rank period. Higher finishing players get guaranteed work for more re-rank periods than lower finishing players.
Do good work during that re-rank period compared to those in the same re-rank category, and you will move up and get more starts in the next re-rank period.
Keeping the Job
For all new employees, once you get the job, it becomes all about keeping the job.
Beyond the first year, the company will set the requirements to keep your job for the following year or number of years.
How these requirements can change is a whole different story!!
I hope this article gives those aspiring to or with aspirations for others to land a job on a professional golf tour worldwide some idea of the process involved.
It is vital to know what and where relative to your expectations to look for a job. Expectations during the interview and an idea of what the first year of the job will be like.
If you are looking for some advice on your search, don’t hesitate to contact me.
All the best with your job hunting!