Situated in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland, the Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown dependency known for its rugged coastline, medieval castles and rural landscape.
With just eight golf courses on the island it is not, therefore, the perfect breeding ground for professional golfers but a certain 28-year-old is breaking the mould.
Tom Gandy, born and raised on the Isle of Man, has become the first Manx to earn full European Challenge Tour membership after making the cut at European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage in November.
Despite a distinct lack of professional golfers on the island, there is a strong amateur scene which Gandy took full advantage of as a fledgling golfer.
“Although there haven’t been many guys turn pro and go into the professional game, there have been a host of good amateur guys,” Gandy said. “There are a lot of good golfers who I have become very friendly with, as it’s such a small place, so we played quite regularly over my latter junior years. That really helped me move along.
“There are eight courses on the Isle of Man and the most well-known is Castletown, which is in the top 100 in the UK at the moment. The standard ranges really as there are a lot of club golfers who just enjoy playing the game and enjoy the social side but there are some really strong players as well. There is a good mix of golfers and courses.
“My brothers and I all took the game up at the same time. My mum and dad would take us up to the junior coaching sessions as my dad was the captain and later the president of the club as well. My mum really took us along to the pitch and putt and then we built from there from a young age.
“I started to play more and more from the age of 16 or 17. I was at the business school on the Isle of Man, doing a degree in business management and one of my good friends was playing full-time as an amateur so I went away with him and had a few good results. From the year I graduated in 2013, I worked winters and my family would help to fund me play in the summer, then in my first full season I got selected to play for England as part of their A squad.”
Gandy finally took the plunge and turned professional in 2018, competing on the EuroPro Tour for two years before taking a run at European Tour Qualifying School in 2020.
“I really enjoyed my two years on the EuroPro,” he said. “I took more responsibility for my decisions and my own game whereas in national squads there was always a lot of coaching, which I struggled with a little bit.
“Moving into the professional game, I found my feet in playing for myself again. There were a lot of guys who turned pro out of the same England set-up so there were a lot of familiar faces which made it easier as well.
“I missed the first six out of seven cuts last year so my schedule got really hectic as I felt like I had to play every week to make up for it. Coming into Q School, I played a lot of golf and had to start at Stage One as well. I just cracked on because I was in a decent run of form; I think I had six or seven top tens on the spin before Final Stage, so I was in a good place.”
The 28-year-old progressed through the first two stages of Qualifying School with relative ease and then safely made the cut in Final Stage, before agonisingly missing out on his European Tour card by a single stroke.
“A lot of people think that because I missed my European Tour card by one shot last year, I’ll definitely get my card this year – that is absolute nonsense,” he said.
“I think, realistically, to consolidate on the Challenge Tour would be fantastic. Finishing in the top 45 on the Road to Mallorca and reaching the Grand Final would be a real goal of mine and with the cards increasing from 15 to 20 this year, to be in with a shout of getting one of those would be great.”
There is a real community spirit on the Isle of Man, with scores of Manx following Gandy’s career closely and immediately engaging with any social media posts on his progress.
“It’s amazing to represent the Isle of Man on the Challenge Tour,” he said. “I can’t tell you how great the support is over here and how good a community it is.
“Everybody’s so supportive and everybody looks out for one another. Everything I do, everybody seems to be watching the results and it’s great to represent your home nation.
“I’m very lucky in terms of sponsors because there are a lot of local sponsors that help me out, whereas if I lived on the mainland then it wouldn’t be so easy to do really. I’m really grateful and looking forward to hopefully going further with it as well.”