Yorkshire golf: Joe Dean targets being a winner in first year as EuroPro Tour player

SHEFFIELD'S Joe Dean will begin life as a tournament professional in earnest next month after comfortably winning his HotelPlanner.com PGA EuroPro Tour card.

English men's amateur champion Joe Dean, pictured with girlfriend Emily Lyle, who caddied for him as he won a EuroPro Tour card in the Final Stage of Qualifying School (Picture: Chris Stratford).

As current English men's amateur champion, he will approach the next phase of his golfing career with confidence and the ambition of not just competing, but winning.

"I'm definitely confident that I can win events," says Dean, adding: "I would like to think I can aim for at least two wins.

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"I have talked to players who have played on the EuroPro Tour and they say the standard is similar to that of the top amateur level I have played over the years, so I do feel very confident. I feel like my game is all there."

Having turned professional as both his country's champion and an international, Dean's assurance seems well-founded.

He succeeded fellow Yorkshireman Nick Marsh, of Huddersfield GC, as English men's amateur champion by winning the final 9&7 at Alwoodley GC, going within inches of completing the feat by holing in one.

He admits that there was "a slight temptation" to stay in the amateur ranks to attempt to defend his title as the event will be staged in Yorkshire for a second consecutive year, at Ganton GC and Scarborough South Cliff GC.

But the dual desire of wanting to be self-sufficient and challenge himself in a different environment helped him come to the decision that it was time to turn professional.

He continues: "I don't really know how to word it; I wasn't bored of the amateur game, but being blunt I was going to each event and it didn't necessarily matter if I missed the cut.

"All you're playing for is your reputation. You don't pick anything up and you come back after a week and, while it's not fair to say you haven't got anything to show for it, I feel I'm at a stage in my life where I want to be able to look after myself and not be relying on other people. I want to get some finances behind me."

One of Dean's first comments after winning at Alwoodley involved thanking his mother, Pauline, whose twin roles as a mobile hairdresser and assistant kitchen chef at a school helped fund him on the amateur circuit, which places a huge drain on both finances and time.

“My mum is fantastic and I can’t thank her enough,” he says. “There’s been low times and there have been high times, but she has been with me all the way. She used to be my chauffeur before I could drive, and she’s still my organiser and my PA.”

In the Final Stage of EuroPro Qualifying School at Frilford Heath, in Oxfordshire, Dean also leaned heavily on another special woman in his life, girlfriend Emily Lyle.

A two-handicap county player for Nottinghamshire, she was caddying for Dean and offered some sage advice after an errant putter had led to his opening 78.

"I couldn't get the pace or the line on the greens and I lost my head a bit halfway through the round because of how stressed I was with my putter," recalls Dean.

"But the next day Emily said, 'let's just take three holes at a time and after every three holes we will wipe the slate clean clean and start again so you're level par approaching the next three holes'.

"It worked and we played great, shot some good numbers and had a decent finish."

Decent does not really do justice to consecutive rounds of 67 and 68 that helped earn him 12th place and a category 3 card that means he can enter as many of the 14 events on the EuroPro schedule as his finances will allow.

He admits he is fortunate to have the financial backing of his management company Octagon, whose manager Stuart Cage is both a former English men's amateur champion and a European Tour winner, having triumphed in the 1997 Cannes Open.

"Time-wise, I would love to enter all of the events and my management company will be putting up some funding for me, which will help see me through one year of EuroPro," outlines Dean.

His status as national champion and player, and his world ranking of 53, made him an attractive proposition.

"There were a few things going for me as an amateur turning pro, and that added to me thinking it was a good time to do it," he says.

As well as targeting a couple of wins in his first season on the third tier of tournament golf, Dean is also entitled to dream of emulating fellow Sheffielder Danny Willett by winning a major golf title.

After all, he and new Masters champion Willett took their first steps in the game under the watchful eye of the same coach, Birley Wood GC's Pete Ball, and later were both mentored by England men's lead coach Graham Walker.

"It was brilliant to watch Danny winning the Masters," says Hillsborough GC's Dean. "Danny and I both started with the same coach when we were younger, and when I moved to Graham, Danny was with Graham.

"I started with Pete when I was about six or seven and Danny would have been about 14 or 15. By the time I started playing a lot more, he had gone to America to university, but when we were both with Graham I saw him quite a bit, every couple of weeks. He has a great work ethic and I'm not surprised at his success."