FIVE years after putting his clubs away and heading for London for a new chapter in his life, Michael Skelton has his bag back out and is ready to pursue his golfing dreams again.
As a teenager he played a major role in the Walker Cup triumph at Ganton in 2003 and he can boast winning the Welsh Amateur, the McGregor Trophy and representing England regularly on his golf CV.
But after missing out on an Open spot in qualifying 2009, he decided to give it all up until 18 months ago when he returned to the tee-box with his friends and he has worked his way back to a professional standard.
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Yesterday he started final qualifying for the EuroPro Tour at Frilford Heath, which effectively guarantees him a spot on this year’s schedule regardless of his positioning. The higher up his finishes tomorrow’s final round will determine how highly he is categorised.
Either way, though, Skelton has big ambitions. Will it take him long for his game to settle back in to the Tour routine? “I honestly don’t know. We will see. I know I can chip, I know I can putt, it’s just about my mind and how I adjust again,” he said.
“I have a plan behind me and from the experiences I have had through business I am going to try to apply that to my golf. I have a team around me now which I didn’t have before and it’s time for my theories to be tested.
“With my team around me, I have an aim, a main aim. That is to be in the world’s top 50 within the next seven years. That’s by season 2020-21. It’s a big aim, it’s tremendously ambitious. I know that.”
As ambitious as it may seen, there is no doubting Skelton has ability to graduate on to the European Tour scene. His previous achievements illustrate the level he has attained, so at the age of 29 he is looking to succeed on the professional stage.
“My whole golfing journey has been an incredible ride,” said Skelton, who plays out of Middlesbrough Brass Castle these days. “My highs have been really high and my lows have been really low. Hopefully this decision to go back on to the pro scene will be another exciting ride.”
The professional stage was where Skelton found things difficult last time and it resulted in him heading to London to try something different.
“I was in my mid-20s and all I knew was golf, I wanted to experience other things because I didn’t want to be just stuck on one thing,” said Skelton. “I was working in fashion, e-commerce. I enjoyed living in London and I suddenly had the money coming in, which I had not had as a professional golfer.
“When I was playing golf I had no money, no plans, I just got on with it. I have a coach, a physio, investors with me now, and it’s about getting out and doing it.”
When Skelton was shining as an amateur he had opportunities to turn pro when he was at his best. He chose to delay it and, with hindsight, he thinks that could have been a mistake.
“I was on an upward curve when I was 19 and maybe I should have turned pro then when I had the momentum,” said Skelton. “It’s easy to say that now, though, when I look back.
“But I am going back in to it this time with a clearer plan, I didn’t really have anything in mind when I was younger, you don’t, you just want to play golf and don’t care about anything else.
“I know it’s going to be hard. The EuroPro Tour is not an easy tour at all. It’s alright for those golfers who are in the top two every week, but it’s a good tour to be involved in.
“But the world is built for winners. If you are not in the upper echelons of whatever you are doing then you will be struggling. That’s what I’m going to be pushing for this year to try to get to the European Tour.”