Local golf pro sets his sights on the big timeBy Adam Lee
March 23, 2011
A young touring professional from Wokingham is eyeing a place on the European Tour having tied up a host of local sponsorship deals.
Lee Wanklyn, 24, turned pro in June last year and has since tried his hand on a number of different professional development tours.
And, following some impressive rounds in two Hi5 Pro Tour competitions earlier this year, Wanklyn has secured six sponsorship deals with local companies.
Pulse 8 gym in Sindlesham and Sand Martins Golf Club in Finchampstead have agreed to allow Wanklyn access to their facilities, while Mizuno Golf, based in Winnersh, have supplied him with a full set of custom fitted clubs.
Wanklyn has also recieved financial support from Rossini Restaurant in Wokingham, Xenuk restaurant in Finchampstead, and Flexivend in Ruscombe.
And he hopes the help that each company has provided will relieve some of the huge financial strain that golfers face in their first years on the professional circuit.
Wanklyn said: “It’s so expensive to start up, what with the entry fees to the competitions, the travelling and the accomodation.
“You really need some financial backing and sponsorship allows you to go out and play without too many worries.
“The competition becomes a lot more intense when everyone is playing for money – you have to dedicate all your time to practise and you don’t really have time to work.
“It can be a real sruggle financially in your first year.
“But the sponsorship is a huge help because it takes a bit of the financial pressure off you – it means you can concentrate on nothing but your game.”
Wanklyn started playing golf aged 12 when he went along to the driving range with his dad Wayne, the former Reading FC midfielder and ex-manager of Wokingham & Emmbrook.
It soon became clear that he had a real talent for the sport, and after a couple of years of tuition, Sand Martins coach and Golf International columnist Andrew Hall took Wanklyn under his wing.
His game went from strength to strength, and on leaving school, Wanklyn was approached by an agency offering a golf scholarship at Connecticut’s Post University in the US.
It was a tough decision for the young golfer, who was unsure what direction he wanted his career to take.
But when he made history by breaking the amateur record at Sand Martins, shooting a six-under-par round of 64, the then 19-year-old’s mind was made up.
He went on to spend four years at the east coast university, graduating last year with a business management degree, as well as invaluable competitive golf experience.
“It was only when I shot the course record that I started to think I could make something of this,” said Wanklyn.
“I saw a different style of play in America – it was great to always be playing in a competitive atmosphere and by constantly playing against the best in your sport it helps you keep your own game up.”
After turning pro, Wanklyn entered his card in first the Jamega Pro Golf Tour, then the Hi5 Pro Tour.
After making the cut in both Hi5 competitions he entered in Spain this year, Wanklyn carded his best finish to date in Al Torreal Final earlier this month, finishing overall fifth on +7 after his three rounds.
And he now wants to see a continued improvement in his game, starting with entry into the Europro Tour next month, before perhaps entering the main European Tour qualifying school later this year.
“I want to finish as high as I can in every tournament, but what I really want to see is improvements in my game so I can start to climb the ladder,” he said.
“I think my consistency needs to be better.
“Golf is a game of recovery – everyone is going to hit good shots, but if your bad shots aren’t that costly then you should be okay.
“I just want to go as far as I can.
“This is my first year as a pro and I want to keep my head above water and compete – make as many cuts as I can, make a few top-10 finishes and take it from there.
“If it all goes to plan then in a few years time hopefully I can get my card on the European Tour.”