Yorkshire golfer Dan Brown eyeing mental improvements as he aims to finish debut DP World Tour season on a high
The 28-year-old North Yorkshireman has enjoyed a consistent maiden season on Europe’s premier circuit, qualifying for the weekend and a pay cheque in 23 of the 26 tournaments he entered.
The obvious highlight was a breakthrough win at the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland in August when he led from Thursday to Sunday before closing out a five-shot victory.
Put together, those results have seen him qualify for the end-of-season play-offs on the DP World Tour, which begin with the top 66 in the rankings contesting the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa from next Thursday and the top 50 after that progressing to the DP World Tour Championship the following week in Dubai.
Brown is 45th on the rankings, and while admitting that had anyone offered him this scenario when negotiating qualifying school last November he would have ‘snapped their hand off’, next year he wants more. He has previously told The Yorkshire Post that he does not like to set himself targets because he plays better without that pressure, but if this first season has taught him anything, it is that he needs to be sharper mentally.
“I’ve trying to keep that mindset of not setting goals since the win in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“I obviously want to get to Dubai, but I’m trying to look at it from the viewpoint of would I have taken just Nedbank at the start of the season? Yes of course I would. But it’s hard to stay like that because the game is always throwing up new challenges. That’s the beauty of golf, you’ve always got something to play for.
“If you retain your card you’ve got Nedbank to look forward to, then Dubai, and if you’re in the top 50 comfortably you’re then looking to get a top 10 and a PGA Tour card for next season. And if you’re in that top 10 you’re looking at challenging for finishing No 1 on the Race to Dubai – so it never stops.
“It can make it quite stressful but it’s good to constantly have something to strive towards.”
To handle that stress, would Brown consider seeking the assistance of a sports psychologist or a performance coach?
“I haven’t felt like I’ve needed one, but after this year I’ve realised just how mentally draining it is being out on the DP World Tour,” said Brown, who is one of four Yorkshire players alongside Matt Fitzpatrick, Marcus Armitage and fellow rookie Dan Bradbury who has qualified for the Nedbank.
“The golf courses are much more difficult, the course set-up, the competition is tougher – it’s just harder. They do everything they can to just make the golf courses as tough as possible. Then you’ve got 150-odd really good players to compete against.
“So mentally this year has been a lot more draining than I thought it would be.
“Next year I need to make sure I schedule a bit more time off, you need to keep yourself fresh all year round.
“That was one of the reasons I missed Qatar last week, I'd played six of the last seven events and even though I could have potentially moved myself up the rankings a little bit, I want to have a good week at Nedbank.”
At the start of his debut campaign, just finishing in the top 116 to retain his playing privileges for a second season was Brown’s only ambition.
By June, the Romanby Golf Club member who spent five years trying to get on the Tour, had made every cut and registered two top-10s.
But then out of nowhere he failed to make the weekend in three straight events, latterly at the British Masters at the Belfry.
Instead of panicking, he sought some advice that helped improve his frame of mind.
“I wasn’t too concerned because I felt like I was close to playing really well again and the British Masters was a week when I had a couple of nasty lip-outs and things just didn’t fall my way,” he said.
“That’s the difficult part of playing at this level – you can play nicely but miss a cut by one or two shots.
“So I had a good chat with (ex-Tour pro) Robert Rock at the Belfry, we talked for a good 45 minutes. I was more going into it thinking I might get a lesson out of it.
“But it was a really positive experience. He’s been there, done it, won a few times and what he said gave me a different way of going about things.”
It helped so much that over the next three tournaments spanning six weeks he finished 17th in Denmark, seventh at a co-sanctioned event on the PGA Tour in America, and first in Northern Ireland.
“It still feels quite surreal that I’ve won,” said Brown, whose victory earned him a one-year exemption. “If ever I click on my profile on the DP World Tour website, and it says European Tour, one, wins I still can’t quite believe it.”