With one regular season tournament to come in Hong Kong, it’s a good time to look at the foot of the European Tour money list and check out what a tough life it can be as a tournament pro.

When you think that most top pros play 25 events a year, then that sounds fine – if you’re making money. Players like multi-tournament winners such as Simon Dyson and Miguel Angel Jimenez are on record as saying they tee it up as often as possible because they simply like to play. Then there are the likes of John Parry who started 34 tourneys this year (the most of any player), but why not when this Yorkshireman is in the form of his life?

It’s at the lower end of the scale where the out-of-form players live, where playing so often is such a different story – it kills your confidence and drains your bank balance.  

So spare a thought for Andrew Butterfield. This likeable Englishman has been yo-yoing around the main Tour for years without a breakout season. In 2010 this Challenge Tour graduate has turned up ready for action no less than 27 times, but has made just £4,257. Andrew’s record puts him 310th in the money list and is easily the worst on the Tour this year on a money-per-event basis.  

Using my calculator, that’s a measly £157.66 per event – maybe enough for a reasonable meal-for-four with an ordinary bottle of wine. And when it costs on average at least £1,200 for travel, accommodation, caddies and so forth each week on Tour, then Andrew is about £30,000 in the hole and counting.

Plus, Andrew has no status on Tour any more for 2011. He will have to start at Qualifying School’s Second Stage later this month and hope a season of nightmarish proportions might end with a ray of hope and a Tour Card via this toughest of tournaments. Among those erstwhile stars who are in the same position this season are Ireland’s Gary Murphy (27 starts and £16,500 in winnings), Carlos Rodiles of Spain (22 and £27,000) and recent PGA Championship winner Scott Drummond (21 and £42,000).

The same thing happens every year to very good players. Last year, Simon Wakefield was in Andrew’s shoes and Simon has yet to bounce back. There really is no guarantee your tournament career will ever rise out of the basement.

And when this year has featured wins for 2009 Q School graduates like Simon Khan, Fredrik Andersson Hed and Alejandro Canizares plus a great season from another – Stephen Gallacher – then it puts the achievements of comeback players in true perspective. These guys are tournament tough and deserve every pound they earn from now on.

Ross Biddiscombe is author of the two Golf On The Edge books about the European Tour Q School. Both Golf On The Edge books are available at half price from golfontheedge.co.uk