HUDDERSFIELD’S Chris Hanson has just finished his first season as an apprentice on the European Tour – a year on from being on the verge of pointing the finger at himself and saying, ‘You’re fired’.
Last November, Hanson entered the final stage of the Tour’s Qualifying School having decided he ought to find himself “a proper job” outside of golf should he fail to gain one of 25 cards on offer.
The Woodsome Hall professional avoided a boardroom showdown with himself by claiming a share of 24th place at PGA Catalunya Resort in Spain and with it the right to play among European golf’s elite.
And this week, back home with wife, Laura, and their two daughters, Jessica, four, and Olivia, two, he was able to reflect on a profitable year for ‘Team Hanson’ that saw him net €253,254 in winnings on the European Tour 2015-16 – a sum six times larger than his previous best season – and retain his card for next year.
What is more, he believes his ‘shareholders’ – main sponsors dppublicity, Abzorb, betoptima, AZ Intec and Stromberg – can be optimistic about further productiviy since Hanson’s status on the Tour has improved, as he explained.
“A year ago I was probably thinking about not playing golf so, after Q School, to keep my card is a weight off my shoulders,” he said.
“While it did feel like a dream job (playing on the European Tour) it was more a dream opportunity because you might not play well or take the opportunity as it needs to be taken – and you might lose your job straight away.
“So to sit here now and have a card for next year – and a better category – is a dream come true.”
The standing Hanson acquired this time last year, as the 24th qualifier in Catalunya, meant he did not have a chance of competing in certain events in the 2015-16 campaign – generally the more lucrative ones – because those with a higher ranking had priority.
Next season, which begins in December in South Africa, a lot more tournament doors will open thanks to a season that saw him finish 109th in the Order of Merit, elevating him to a higher category.
“From what I can gather, and from past years, the new category opens up everything, really,” he said. “I’ve probably gone from being able to play the 20 smaller events this year to playing the 20 big events, so, if you look at the schedule, there’s 35 events, and most people on the top end will play 28-30 events.
“But to play the likes of Wentworth (which stages the Tour’s flagship event, the PGA Championship), the Scottish Open and some of the events I’m guaranteed to get into, it opens a lot more doors.”
Hanson knew the restrictive nature of his status last year meant he faced an almighty task to retain his playing privileges, but ignored the negatives and embraced the challenge.
“If you speak to the Q School guys, a lot of them would say it’s a waste of time getting that category, that you don’t get a chance to keep your card,” he reflected. “But thankfully I’ve proved people wrong, that you can do it.
“I think there were only eight people from the Q School category who retained their card for next year and I started the season at the bottom of that category.”
Hanson made the cut in 17 of the 22 events he entered, and led the Trophee Hassan in Morocco after three rounds in May before eventually finishing sixth, one of six top-25 finishes.
The experience fuels his belief and excitement ahead of opening his 2016-17 season back at Leopard Creek, in South Africa.
“It’s a case of doing what I’ve been doing this year, but increasing the intensity,” he replied when asked about his goals for the coming year.
“I’ll identify a few areas that I need to get better at, and I’d like to think I can compete many times to win this year and, if I can get across the line, that would be great.”
In the meanwhile, he will continue to plough through the countless emails and social media messages of congratulations that he received after retaining his card.
“It’s been amazing, overwhelming, the backlog of messages I’ve had from last week,” he said. “I’ve been trying to respond to them all. I’ve been doing it for three days and I do try to get back to everyone and thank them for their support.
“It has come from all golf clubs; obviously Crosland Heath where I grew up, Woodsome, where I am now, but everywhere throughout the union, everywhere throughout Yorkshire, really.”