PAUL DRAKE will not be bidding to join the club of back-to-back Lothians Championship winners as the Pumpherston player has turned professional.
It follows the 39-year-old’s success in coming through two qualifying stages to secure a card for this season’s PGA EuroPro Tour.
His first event in the paid ranks is at Astbury Hall in Shropshire in a fortnight’s time and Drake’s hopes of defending his Lothians title before then have been dashed.
Qualifying takes place next weekend for the match-play phase at Duddingston but Drake said: “I wouldn’t have been able to enter the event on the EuroPro Tour unless I’d turned pro.
“It’s disappointing that I can’t try and win the Lothians Championship for the second year in a row but, at the same time, this new career is exciting for me.”
Drake tied for 56th in the final stage of the third-tier circuit’s Q-School at Frilford Heath, where only five players from an army of Scots fared better than him.
“Finishing in the top 60 means you get into just about everything and I’m really looking forward to getting started,” he added.
“The EuroPro Tour is a lot better now than it was three or four years ago and it’s a real bonus that there are four Scottish events on this year’s circuit.
“I’m still keeping my job. I’m going to take holidays when I’m playing in tournaments. Hopefully I can give it a go for a couple of years then see where I’m then.
“I don’t expect to become a success overnight but if I can work away at it then who knows what I can achieve. I’ve always believed that in this game it comes down to small margins.”
A big help to Drake is the fact he’s managed to secure some sponsorship as he bids to join the likes of Duddingston’s John Gallagher on the EuroPro Tour.
“Mike Herries, a Pumpherston member who owns some restaurants, has agreed to help me and that certainly makes a big difference with entry fees and general expenses,” he said.
“He’s going to be coming with me to the tournaments as well so that will give me a welcome bit of company, too.
“I’m practising at every available opportunity at the moment and hopefully I can get my short game in particular ready for that first event.”
Drake beat Harburn’s Craig Deerness in an all-West Lothian final in last year’s Lothians Championship at Dalmahoy to become the first Pumphy player to claim the title since Phil Smith in 1984.