Finish eighth in the Open of 1865, for instance, and you were lucky if you earned a bale of hay. Of course, the modern era is awash with money and the main movers and shakers can accumulate the kind of mind-boggling riches that would make a Babylonian prince look like a pauper that lived under a bridge.
Finish eighth in last week's inaugural Turkish Airlines World Golf Final – and eighth was basically last in a limited field of golfing A-listers – and you would have walked away with $300,000.
Justin Rose, the eventual winner, trotted off with another $1.5m to stash under a mattress that, itself, is probably stuffed with the feathers from the wings of Pegasus. He can afford to indulge such idle whims, after all.
Those in the rarefied air of the game's upper echelons have never had it so good. The other month, there was the multi-million dollar conclusion to the FedEx Cup in the USA. Over the next few weeks, the top brass will be dipping their bread in the gravy train when it rumbles towards the Far East for the $7m BMW Masters and the WGC HSBC Champions, before the season steams to a conclusion with the dripping roast and trimmings that is the lucrative Dubai World Tour Championship.
The good news for the European Tour is that the aforementioned Turkey shoot will now be a firm feature on the schedule for the next three years at least. The $7m contest, to be known as the Turkish Open, will be extended to a field of 78 players and will be the penultimate event on the circuit before the Dubai showpiece the following week.
Despite the extension of the European Tour into far-flung places where money seems to grow on gold-leafed trees, the hardships in its traditional home continue to cause concern.
The 2012 season has been particularly worrying. As the widespread economic gloom enveloped the golfing landscape, tour officials found themselves staring at great chunks of space in the diary as the Iberdrola Open in Majorca, the Czech Open, the Madrid Masters, the Castellon Masters and Andalucia Masters were all shelved for a variety of financial reasons.
The Andalucia event was a particularly sore one to lose given that it was scrapped with barely one month's notice. For those players at the top of the table, the loss of such events has had little impact although a few have delivered the odd half-hearted "it's worrying for our tour" soundbite before darting off to line their pockets elsewhere.
For those at the bottom end of the pecking order who are battling to safeguard their European Tour cards, the consequences have been far more severe. The tournaments that have been lost were, by and large, ones that new recruits and lower-ranked competitors could pencil in to their schedules.
It is hard enough to gain a foothold on the main circuit at the best of times, especially for those who pass the stern examination of the qualifying school, but trying to do so when a bundle of key events have been whipped from under your feet makes the whole process even more treacherous. David Dixon, the Englishman who won last December's qualifying school final in Spain, has played just 15 events in 2012, for example. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the former Open silver medal winner is languishing in 194th place on the money list and facing a return trip to the q-school.
"The loss of tournaments in Majorca, Madrid and the Andalucia Masters has had a huge effect on the players coming from the Challenge Tour and q-school on to the tour this year, as they have lost many – maybe 10 – opportunities to play," said Keith Waters, the chief operating officer of the European Tour, in a recent interview. "We are doing all we can to maintain a strong base in Europe and to make it grow, but, in spite of our best efforts, the European swing is getting shorter and we can't bank on things getting better any time soon."
The financial burden of life on the cut line can be illustrated by the rejigged schedule this week. The Andalucia Masters should have been swinging into action on Thursday at Valderrama. In its place is the Perth International Golf Championship in Australia. Craig Lee, who is four places outside the card-retaining safety zone of the leading 115 on the order of merit at 119th, has entered, as have his fellow Scottish strugglers Alastair Forsyth (129th) and George Murray (151st).
Instead of a cheap and cheerful hop down to the Costa del Sol, the tartan trio are now counting up the cost of an eye-watering trek Down Under. Whether the financial gamble pays off remains to be seen. Events have fallen by the wayside on the European Tour this season but now events are simply running out for those scrambling for survival.
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