Golf: Marmion dazzled by the sun - but not the stars; Eaton golfer shows he can stand the heat as he rifles on to professional scene.
WHILE others have been working on their golf game in the wind and rain of England, Cheshire's Dale Marmion has been playing and practising in the sunshine of Australia and South Africa in his bid to move upwards in the professional ranks.
He has made an impressive start. The 23-year-old, a former county amateur who joined the paid ranks less than 18 months ago, has already made his debut at the top in two European Tour events.
Back home - before he flies out to the sunshine again - he said: "I did feel I could compete. I played with some household names in the Australian Masters and it was good to rub shoulders, play golf and compete.
"I was not star struck. I am not that kind of person. They were tough courses out there compared with the Euro Pro Tour but it was all a great experience."
By the standards of many he was a relatively late starter in golf. He played football before he began playing golf at the age of about 14, following his father in joining Eaton.
He played for the senior Cheshire team and soon became a member of the England A squad.
When he reached the quarter-finals of the English Amateur in 2007 Andrew "Chubby" Chandler, the Cheshire-based agent and founder of the International Sports Management group, suggested he turned professional. Marmion never hesitated.
He became a professional the next day and since then, as he puts it, "it has been going really well".
He was the only player to win two events on the EuroPro Tour last year and he finished second in the order of merit, which has given him a European Challenge Tour card for this season.
He has also played in two events on the European Tour, the Australian Masters and the Johannesburg.
Marmion has, of course, never doubted his ability but he does admit is progress, winning a full Challenge Tour card and playing in European Tour events in less than two years of turning professional, has all happened rather quicker than he imagined.
The European Tour experience was his biggest test so far and he says: "I thought that if I did not do all that well, as long as I could take something from it it would be worthwhile."
As it happened, his performance and the experience has been a big confidence boost as the new tournament season approaches.
He made the cut and played in the Australian Masters and qualified for the Australian Open but missed the cut.
He returned home for Christmas and New Year before flying to South Africa for the Johannesburg Open and the Dimension Data in Sun City.
After a return to England last month he was making plans to go to Spain for two weeks, hitting golf balls and working with his sports psychologist Stuart Fomes as part of his preparation for the coming season.
Talking of the advantages of this escape from wet Britain to the sunshine, he said: "You can practice, all day with the sun on your back and not get bored.
"It is difficult to keep in the right frame of mind (in England in winter) but you have to try and remain enthusiastic. It is your job."
He has now finished playing the EuroPro Tour, a kind of apprenticeship for those starting in the professional game, and will now concentrate almost exclusively on playing the Challenge Tour in 2009.
The difference in prize money on the two tours is considerable but he says the big difference is the Challenge Tour is a development tour, helping the young professionals learn how to play and compete at the higher level of the professional game, on the edge of the European Tour with its riches in prize money.
He missed the cut in the two South African tournaments but by only one shot in the Dimension. He said: "I was working on some things, tweaking a few things in my swing, working on my short game, getting rid of the cobwebs, working to get me better for this coming year."
He said he did not have the bests of careers as an amateur, but added: "I knew I was capable of this sort of thing (his performances in Australian and South Africa and his arrival on the Challenge Tour).
"But now I am hopeful going into the Challenge Tour. I will have more confidence because I have played a couple of events on the European Tour. It was my biggest test but it has given me a better chance of doing well."
His ambition for 2009 is to finish in the top 20 on the Challenge Tour and win a playing card for the main European Tour.
"That's my target. Yes, I am confident. My short game is coming along and it is all going in the right direction. I am taking one step at a time and loving every minute of it."
It is difficult to keep in the right frame of mind - but it's your job
Dale Marmion (left) celebrates with his caddie, after winning the Whittlebury Classic on the EuroPro Tour last year