Joe Heraty, one of the stalwarts of the Leeds and Yorkshire amateur golfing scene over the last few years, is to turn professional in the Middle East this weekend.
The 22-year-old Moor Allerton member, who won numerous caps for the city and county amateur teams, flies out to Dubai today to contest his first tournament in the paid ranks on Sunday.
Heraty has taken a card on the MENA Golf Tour, a satellite circuit for the Middle East and North Africa that runs from this weekend through to November.
The intense breeding ground is of a similar standing to the EuroPro Tour, the predominently British circuit that runs from spring to autumn.
Heraty got his first taste of that level in August when as his home club’s champion, he was given an invite into the Clipper Logistics Championship at Moor Allerton, and finished 17th.
That experience of playing on a nothing-to-lose ticket against golfers competing for a living, gave him an insight into what lies ahead.
“I chose the MENA Tour because it just feels the right time to turn professional and this is a sensible step,” said Heraty, who will play tournaments in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Oman in the coming weeks.
“I went out to work in Abu Dhabi after Christmas so I got a bit of a feel for the region.
“It’s a satellite tour but perhaps not as well-known as the EuroPro, and it’s a good place to start.
“It’s heavily funded by the Emirates government and it’s a good standard; there’s guys out there like Ross McGowan, Zane Scotland and Stephen Dodd who have been on the European Tour.
“The way the prize money is spread out it isn’t as top heavy as the EuroPro so hopefully it’s easier to make a start. If you make the cut you more or less win your money back.”
Heraty is heading out alone, with the friends he made over the winter offering him a place to “crash” in between the seven tournaments in seven weeks that he hopes will culminate in a place in the Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates in the first week in November.
It is a significant step into the unknown for Heraty, but after canvassing opinion from people he respects in the game, it is one he feels is the right one to make as he embarks on a journey he hopes will one day result in playing rights on the European Tour.
“I’ve spoken to a few guys about making the transition and one of my mentors Danny Denison has been a massive help to me,” said Heraty, of the former European Tour player.
“He just says you’ve just got to go out there and try and think of it as just playing golf.
“I’ve not experienced the pressure of playing for a pay cheque before so I don’t know how I’ll deal with it.
“The tournament schedule is intense and I’m out there on my own effectively, but if I get into a hole I know I can ring Danny and pick his brains.
“I could have gone to the European Tour’s Q School but another guy I speak to regularly, Simon Hurd – who has been there and done it – had a cautonary tale. He won his card on the Asian Tour at the first attempt on leaving the amateur ranks and he admitted he didn’t know how to deal with the transition of playing professional events.
“So you can get there too early. Playing on the MENA Tour is a more sensible step to take.”