Former Liverpool full-back Julian Dicks was perhaps the first to try his luck, with only moderate success, but Stephen Grant is making a rather better fist of swapping the football field for the fairways.
Dicks was soon forced to call time on his career change after a troublesome knee injury flared up, but it was a lower back problem which first prompted Grant to hang up his football boots and try to find fame and fortune on the professional golfing circuit instead.
At last week’s ALLIANZ Côtes d’Armor Bretagne on the Challenge Tour, the 35 year old opened with a round of 67 before high winds in northern France blew his title tilt off track.
After such a bright start Grant was understandably disappointed with his final finish of tied 37th, but the Irishman still took plenty of encouragement from a performance which vindicated his decision to switch sports.
Before his premature retirement in 2004, Grant enjoyed a productive playing career as a striker in both his native land and across the Irish Sea in England, where he enjoyed spells with Sunderland and Burnley.
His career was bookended with two spells at Shamrock Rovers where, after scoring on his debut against Bohemians in 1996, he returned five years later and ended his playing days on a high as the club’s leading scorer in the 2003/2004 season.
Grant recalled: “I had ten good years as a footballer, and enjoyed every one of them. The thing I miss most is probably the training, because it’s a lot of fun. It’s also handy having ten other players on the team to bail you out if you’re having a bad day!
“Whereas golf is obviously an individual sport, so it’s down to you and you only. Plus there’s a bit less camaraderie and you also spend a lot longer practising, so it can be quite a lonely experience at times. But I’ve no regrets, because I’m really enjoying testing myself out here.”
As a latecomer to the game – he only picked up a golf club for the first time eight years ago – Grant is understandably keen to make up for lost time.
Grant, who will be largely reliant on sponsors’ invitations to compete on the Challenge Tour this term, is hopeful of performing well enough in his occasional appearances to secure full playing privileges for next season.
He said: “I was completely out of my depth when I turned pro only three years after touching a golf club for the first time. So I got some experience on the EPD Tour, played pretty well and was up near the top of the Order of Merit for most of the season. Then I travelled over to the States and spent a season on the Hooters Tour last year, which was another great learning experience for me.
“I think I probably jumped into the game too quickly, and expected too much of myself. Now that I’ve got a lot more experience to draw on, it should hopefully stand me in good stead this season and going forward.
“After I turned pro I was probably only making about 30 per cent of cuts. But over the last two or three years I think I’ve only missed three cuts in more than 50 events. So even though I haven’t managed to win a tournament yet, I’ve improved my consistency massively. I just want to keep playing and keep improving, and hopefully within the next couple of years I’ll make it onto The European Tour.”