The Golf Family is always eager to promote the upcoming players as well as those established stars and with our Challenge Tour writer having followed a particular young player’s career over the last couple of years, we took the chance to find out more about promising Toby Tree, his progression so far, expectations and, of course, finishing top-60 on the greatest stage of all.
Thanks for your time Toby. Firstly how’s the prep for the new season going? Anything you are working on in particular?
Prep for the new season is going really well. I’ve been down near Capetown the last few weeks with my girlfriend and coach who comes on holiday here with his wife every January. It’s paradise down here and a lovely environment to work on things. Not too many distractions either which always helps. I’ve made a lot of big changes this year which my girlfriend has helped out massively with. Mostly lifestyle changes and work ethic. My season starts properly next week. I have a run of potentially 6 events.
As a top junior player was there a point when the expectations suggested there was no doubt you would turn pro, and how do you feel you’ve lived up those if any?
As a top junior and amateur there were certainly expectations. So far I haven’t really lived up to any of my own. It came quite easy as a junior, however the last few years not so. Of course the standard on the top pro tours is better than amateur and junior days. The changes I’ve recently made though.. I’m seeing some really good improvements of late and I feel I could start to hit those expectations I had in the next year or two.
You faced some (now) well-known rivals through that amateur spell, anyone you particularly took note of as likely to make it?
There were always players that you thought were decent or slightly better than others growing up. However, looking back, the ones that work the hardest do better than the ones you thought had more talent. The teams I played in over the years for England, GBI and Europe for the Junior Ryder Cup had some great players. For me no one worked harder than Fitzpatrick (Tits) he seems to have had an alright few years to start his pro career.
Looking through your record, there has been steady improvement through the past three years with an increase in top10 finishes and a rise through the OWGR. Would you say that it’s simply experience that shows? Would that be the main reason why good results intermingle with the,er, not so good?
My golf’s good, bad and ugly. The good results are good and I’m not afraid of a low round. Plenty of sub 65s. There are also plenty of bad events! I think this is just from lack of work and you can’t expect to be so consistent, always playing well, if the hours haven’t been put in. Also early 20s travelling the world on your own? There are a lot of temptations!
It’s not hard to notice your excellent results in South Africa. Any reason why your game seems so suited there ?
My results are certainly better down in South Africa rather than Europe. I love the country, I used to come down as an amateur and stay with my friend Haydn Porteous. I’ve always enjoyed it. The courses definitely suit me better than those on Challenge Tour. Beautiful long courses which reward good ball striking, smooth quick greens and a breakfast at halfway for under £2. What more could you want? The Sunshine Tour is a great place to play and would recommend it to anyone.
You clearly enjoy the Dimension Data, having two consecutive t10 finishes there. Is there something in the water or set-up that encourages your score?
Dimension Data is a great week. Not only do you get to play all 3 courses at Fancourt, there are functions every night and has a really relaxed feel about it. The last couple of years I’ve done pretty well. I needed 4 on the 72nd hole for a playoff last year and made 6. Often think back to how bad my attempt at the green was and how quickly I played it. I’m heading back there in a few weeks. I guess the courses really suit my eye and I enjoy being there. Another good finish would do me nicely this year!
Have you considered moving over to SA for a full year or two to progress your ranking?
A few people have said why don’t I move here and play a full year. I’ve also thought about it after I get frustrated on Challenge Tour in the summer months. It’s the perfect environment for golf and would be good fun. I finished 33rd on the OOM last year and that gets me into 5 co-sanctioned events with the European tour. That’s really the aim. Finish high enough to get into those events for the Winter then play Challenge Tour in the summer in search of the top 15 on the OOM to promote yourself to full time European tour.
After your best result of 2017 in Prague and following qualification, you made the cut in The Open. What was that experience like and just how different was it to a regular event?
The Open was everything you would expect it to be. It was over in a flash and was the most fun I’ve had playing golf. It was my first experience of playing in front of such packed stands and lined fairways. I was more nervous in the practice rounds. Once the tournament got going I was more focused on playing than what was going on around me. My game was great all week, I didn’t score as well as I played though. Overall it gives you a great taste of what you can have week-in week-out if you work hard. The rewards are massive. I came back to earth a couple of weeks after when I played Challenge Tour and missed the cut in Finland.
No doubt that gave you a thirst for the top tier. Has it made you hungrier to make the top15 of the CT?
I played with some top players in the practice rounds at The Open and also the tournaments itself. It was a good opportunity to compare my game to the best players. The hitting aspect I was up there with anyone, but obviously there is more to golf than just tee to green. It made me realise if I stopped messing around and become more disciplined, slowly start to work as hard as everyone else I can perform on that stage week in week out.
I note you played a game alongside Jordan Smith and Ryan Evans a few weeks ago. Is there anyone else you regularly play and does it give you an insight into regular play on the ET?
I had an enjoyable 9 holes with the boys at SA open. I hadn’t seen Smithy for a little while and Evans, sadly I saw him a lot throughout the year. We were in the same England squad. Smithy obviously played great last year on European Tour and Ryan Challenge Tour. I play a lot of my practice rounds with Haydn Porteous and Max Orrin as well. Everyone’s games are so similar in practice. Under the gun on Thursday is when it changes. To be fair all the boys above have had a great couple of years winning on different tours.. I suppose I’m letting the side down at the moment!
I recall a few messages with you a couple of years ago when you were very honest about your game whether good or bad. You’re quite vocal on Twitter , have you thought about blogging, like Chris Hanson for example?
I enjoy the odd rant on twitter however censored it may be. I haven’t thought about doing a blog. First, I reckon I should take care of stuff on the course before I try to indulge in anything off the course! Maybe something I would consider in the future.
Despite this your Twitter feed seems dominated by football rather than golf being a huge Tottenham fan. You obsessive about it?
I try to keep my tweets as normal as possible. Whatever I’m up to or have an opinion on. A few have got me into trouble in the past, so I’m learning I can’t tweet everything. I find some golfer accounts so boring with the generic weekly tweet about the tournament they are about to play or how it went. When I’m back home I watch a lot of footie with the boys so that probably does make up the majority of my tweets haha! Winding people up on there is a massive hobby too.
When you look through the schedule do any events leap up at you as being one that you will enjoy or suits? Why?
Looking through the schedule none really jump out at me as a favourite as my best finish is only T4 or 5th ever on that tour. More stick out at me for the other reasons. Short fiddly courses I’ll try to give a miss and places in the middle of nowhere. It’s called Challenge Tour for a reason!
Finally, do you have a firm schedule set for this year and what are your realistic aims for the year?
I’m about to to start a run of potentially 7 tournaments. Six on the sunshine tour to finish the season down here. Then the Kenya open to get things started on challenge. Im going to be playing about 20-25 challenge tour events this year. Compared to my usual 10-13 on there. That’s just nowhere near enough to do anything. My goal for the year is top 15. If I dedicate myself then this is a very achievable goal.
Bloody nice bloke and now dedicated to his work, Toby starts his season proper at the Eye of Africa PGA this weekend. The Golf Family will certainly be keeping an eye on his progress over the next few months and wish him all the best for the coming season.