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Is it time for a fresh approach to sponsorship?
After years of walking the tightrope between success and failure, Julie Forbes has toppled over and lost her patience.

She recently hit out at the lack of support given to Scottish golfers, while she has also made a decision that this is her make or break year.

At 35, and in her 12th year as a professional, the genial Aboyne golfer has decided that she can't continue doing what she loves if she's not going to do any more than make ends meet.

Not that she's lost any of her ambition, desire or even the belief that she still has the potential to become a top-class player. What she has lost is the hope that a little bit of success would reap the rewards of a sponsorship contract or a lip-smacking endorsement deal.

While a local Aberdeen company provided support during her initial 18 months on Tour, she has never since had the safety net of a sponsor that covers the expenses and allowed her to concentrate fully on making the scores that earn even greater returns.

Last year, for the first time, she started the season under the wing of a management company. But even that signing ended up as a massive let down.

'I signed the contract and then had a great start to the season in Australia and really thought I was set up for the year,' she reflected. 'But let's just say that the management deal didn't work out as planned, I then suffered a knee injury and, eventually, the season ended on a low note.'

In fact, she earned just £9,600, finished 52nd on the Evian European Tour Order of Merit and was left contemplating her future. It is a sad situation for a Scot who was one of our brightest prospects when she turned professional on the back of an impressive amateur career and scored a breakthrough win in the 1994 Var Open in France.

In 1996, she was sailing along towards a Solheim Cup place until a disappointing end of season run cast a blight on her prospects.

Since then, just as the European Tour has floundered, so have Forbes' fortunes. She has always managed to at least break even, but she now admits that her career earnings of just over £180,000 are all but drained.

'It doesn't say much that the money I have made has all been swallowed up,' she said, just about managing a rueful smile. 'Almost every season, it has been a case of just managing to keep going.'

'The thing is that I absolutely love playing professional golf and I can't imagine doing anything else. But this has to be my make or break year.'

'Over the winter I've been conducting clinics around Ireland with Aideen Rogers (a fellow-pro) and we're going to be doing some more during breaks in the Tour this year. Thankfully, they provide some much-needed money.'

'The frustrating aspect is that I still believe I have the potential to really make it. Who knows? If I could get some financial backing then it might just be the spur I need to get back into the winner's circle.'

'When I won back in 1994, I really did think that it would be the stepping stone to many more victories, and greater success. But here I am eight years later still waiting for the big breakthrough.'

What she would love is to secure a sponsor that would ease the worry of life on Tour. 'It would make a huge difference if the pressure of having to make cuts just to afford to eat and travel was taken away,' she suggested.

And she doesn't want money for nothing. A personable sort, she would be delighted to host company days or clinics and, of course, she would publicise any company logo on her golf bag or cap or wherever the backer required.

'But Scottish businessmen don't seem to be keen to give money to players,' she added, citing Team Golf Ireland as an example of what can be done. 'Irish businessmen throw money into a big pot and all the players benefit. Padraig Harrington is one who has made use of the scheme.'

Forbes will launch her season with a run of three tournaments in Australia next month and she hopes to make the start that will rekindle her faith and, perhaps, entice a sponsor. But in a year's time? 'By then,' she desolately confessed, 'I might have been forced to quit.'

©    29 - JANUARY 2002

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