Finch delighted to have come up trumps despite losing his card

Richard Finch
Richard Finch
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Golf is a game of such highs and lows that it pays never to read too much into either.

Just ask Richard Finch, who experienced enough ups and downs in the space of the final throes of 2013 to last a decade.

The seasoned Yorkshire golfer entered the Perth International in the middle of October needing an astonshing run to retain the European Tour status he had held for nine years.

The 36-year-old came up agonisingly short of the third place he needed in Western Australia when he finished seventh.

Three weeks later, he headed to Spain to tackle the final stage of qualifying school, where his two Tour titles and more than 200 tournament appearances were rendered irrelevant against players nearly half his age at the outset of their professional careers.

Finch lay second after the first 18 holes but, by the sixth and final round, he had faded, and his 2013 season got the ending, he accepts, it deserved.

Faced with having to return to the Challenge Tour, 10 years after he thought he had left behind that circuit for good, Finch packed his bags for South Africa contemplating what the future might hold.

Because of his history on tour and the pulling power of his management company, ISM, the Hull golfer had a sponsor’s invite to the first two tournaments on the 2014 European Tour calendar.

“I was just focusing on the one thing you can control; how you perform on the golf course,” said Finch as he prepared for the South African Open at the end of November.

“I went straight from Spain to South Africa so I didn’t have much time to think about what had gone on over the last season.

“In golf, you’re just trying to play well or do well, whether you’re first-ranked player in the field, the last-ranked or you’re on an invite.

“It’s a level playing field.”

An opening round of 79 suggested nothing much had changed for Finch, but on the Friday some of the old magic returned and he posted a 68.

He still missed the cut, mind, the 12th time he had failed to make the weekend in the last year.

But he headed for the next stop at Leopard Creek and the Alfred Dunhill Championship with a slither of hope.

In the space of four days at that tournament, Finch transformed not only his year, but also his fortunes for this coming season and beyond. He finished second behind Charl Schwartzel, earning 172,500 euros (£144,121).

That result got him into the following week’s Hong Kong Open, in which he finished eighth, pocketing 20,472 euros (£17,103).

In the space of 11 days, Finch earned more than he had in 29 tournaments over the previous 11 months.

“It’s a mad game and the last couple of months just proves that,” says Finch.

“In the grander scheme of things, I was more consistent in 2013 than I had been for many a year, in the respect that my bad was not as bad, but my good wasn’t as good either. But it just wasn’t good enough.

“It was disappointing not to retain my card, and frustrating and disappointing to then go to Tour school and not produce a good enough performance there.

“But out of the blue I played well in that second round in Gauteng and it was a nice pleasant surprise to do well at the Alfred Dunhill and come second there.

“All of a sudden, it puts a different perspective on things.

“It was a good end to a frustrating year. In my last six tournaments, including the top-10 in Perth, I had three top-10 finishes.

“The task now is to try and keep it going for a full year.”

The key, Finch believes, was that he never got too down on himself, just as he knows not to crow about his sudden renaissance.

“I was disappointed walking off the 18th green in Perth, but also I was pleased that I’d shown a bit of form and got a decent result,” he says. “I was satisfied that I’d put in a good showing and you know that if you perform like that in the long run it will be all right.

“I certainly wasn’t down and out and feeling like it was the end of the world.

“Even Tiger Woods has spells where he doesn’t play as well as he’d like.

“You’ve got to ride out the rough waves and try and get it back on an even keel. There’s not many golfers who go through their careers without a bad spell. That’s just part of the game.

“The good thing about golf is it can turn quickly. If you were in a team in a league you can’t just suddenly have one good result and it transforms your season.

“It takes a number of results to turn it around, whereas in golf, one good week can make it a good season.

“Doing well at the right time in the right tournament is what it’s all about. You could play 25 tournaments a year, miss 20 cuts but get a couple of top-fives in your other tournaments. You might not be happy, but you might be safe because that’s better than finishing 40th every week.

“You have to make sure in each season that you’re having two top-five finishes to keep going.

“That’s what you’ve got to do to get the prize money to keep alive. One good week can change your entire season.

“What I have lost by losing my card is that luxury of being able to plan ahead. If someone says you can play, I have to be there as soon as I can.”

In doing so well at the start of the 2014 season, Finch has ensured he has all but earned enough money to win back full playing privileges for the 2015 campaign.

It has taken away the uncertainty about his future. He says he will still play the odd Challenge Tour event to keep his eye in, but he hopes now his year ahead will be highlighted by more sponsors’ invites to European Tour events.

Finch is philosophical about the whole episode, and at no stage has he been disrespectful to the lower tours or qualifying school.

He hopes to play some part in the Middle East swing on the European Tour over the coming weeks, when more big purses will be on offer.

Because he knows better than most what another two good weeks might do to improve his fortunes even further after those two good weeks just gone.