With Rory McIlroy having already lifted 1,775,000 euro in prize money since the start of the year and Darren Clarke receiving a cheque for £900,000 for his British Open triumph, it would be easy to view professional golf as the ideal route to untold riches. The truth is that below the elite few millionaires operating at the peak of their trade, there are masses of professionals struggling to make ends meet.

One local player who knows all about the harsh realities of professional golf is Chris McVitty. The Enniskillen golfer spent almost two years travelling round Ireland competing for prize money on the professional circuit. The season ran from April to October, with tournaments taking place virtually every week across the length and breadth of Ireland, as Chris fought to earn a wage in an increasingly competitive environment. "You were playing for your living so you were under pressure all the time," he revealed. "You would have been all around Ireland pretty much every week, living out of a suitcase and a car, and there were no guarantees. I suppose I didn't think of it in that way at the time because I was still young and didn't really have many other commitments. For me it was more a matter of going out and playing golf and enjoying it. Times then started to get hard. The prize money funds were being cut back and there was more and more people playing, so it was getting harder to make enough money." Chris did have his successes on the circuit. He was victorious in three Pro-Ams and finished second in his first Irish Assistants Championship, but as with the vast majority of professional golfers, the dreams of getting their hands on Clarke's claret jug remain just a dream.

Chris' golfing life started early. From around the age of four he started walking the fairways of Enniskillen Golf Club with his father, himself a single figure handicapper. His first outing ended after just two holes when his young legs got too tired to continue, but he soon became a regular on the courses of Fermanagh, both Enniskillen and Castle Hume. For many years his sole club was Enniskillen, and when Castle Hume opened he also joined Fermanagh's second course. He represented club teams for both courses, including the Fred Daly team. He soon established his position as one of the county's most promising young up and coming golfers, and held the position of Junior Captain at Enniskillen.

Despite his low handicap Chris did not seriously consider the option of turning professional. On leaving Portora he went to university, but his plans soon changed. "It was only an ambition to turn professional while I was at University," he said. "I didn't like the degree I was doing and I had to think about my career, and my decision was that I would like to become a golf professional. I hadn't played golf in a couple of years at that stage because I stopped when I went to University. I then decided that I would take the plunge and start playing again and went practicing for about three months and got my handicap down low enough to turn pro." Once he had made the leap to the professional ranks he did an apprenticeship under David Robinson at Bundoran Golf Club alongside a degree in professional golf through the University of Birmingham. On leaving Bundoran he started almost two years on the Irish tour pitted against club professionals from throughout Ireland. Although he never had the pleasure of playing alongside the country's major winners, he did play with former Ryder Cup player Philip Walton and former British Amateur champion Brian McElhinney, as well a very entertaining round with Wolves and former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy.

Eventually the lure of a regular wage proved too strong and Chris opted to leave his full time position on the tour to take up a position as teaching professional at Lough Erne Golf Resort working alongside Lynn McCool. After a short stint at the local resort he has now moved on work for Cobra Puma Golf as the area sales manager for Northern Ireland, although he still loves playing competitive golf. "I am still playing in tournaments as well, but not as much as I had been," he said. "I travel around all the shops and some clothes shops selling Puma clothing and Cobra golf clubs. I always liked the retail side of it and if I can find the right balance between that and playing it will be perfect because there won't be as much pressure playing when you actually have an income guaranteed." There is no need for those type of guarantees at the top end of the sport of course, but Chris is delighted some of his fellow Northern Ireland professionals are dominated the world of golf. "I think golf courses are busier as a result of their successes," he admitted. "People are getting into the game because of McIlroy. Even older people are getting a bit of the appetite back watching Clarke, so it has definitely helped the game here."