These are the guys putting the final touches to their games before playing in one of the game’s most nerve-wracking events - the first European Tour pre-qualifiers at six venues throughout the continent - next week from September 20-23.
Some 99 players will tee it up, three in England and one each in Germany, Italy and France, and as always they include 40 Irishmen.
The near certainty is that only a small percentage will get through to the second pre-qualifier at three courses in Spain from November 2-5 and fewer still can hope to tee it up at the Tour School itself in San Roque on November 10-15.
As always, of course, hope springs eternal and while many will wonder why they are landing out large sums of money in quest of a dream that almost certainly can never be realised, it is difficult to blame them considering the crocks of gold available should they break into the big time.
This could hardly be better exemplified than by the vast sums on offer at Wentworth this week, which still aren’t enough to attract the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh, to name but three who won’t travel from the US for such paltry sums.
As of now, Ireland is assured of having Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gary Murphy, Michael Hoey and David Higgins on the main tour in 2006. All the indications are that Philip Walton, who regained his card at the Tour School last year, will not be there.
The 1995 Ryder Cup hero has failed to make an impression in his appearances on tour over the past few months and has indicated that he will not return to the school this year.
Stephen Browne, the only other Irish qualifier this year, has little or no chance of retaining his card, standing as he does at 193rd, but he will go straight to San Roque and so avoids the torment of pre-qualifying.
Many of the names travelling are familiar. Darren Crowe, Michael McGeady and Sean McTernan of last week’s Irish amateur international side at Royal St Georges, all play St Annes Old Links as do former Walker Cup star Noel Fox and amateur championship winners such as Eamonn Brady, Mark Campbell and Mark O’Sullivan.
Raymond Burns, who looked such a bright prospect in the mid 90s, has entered at Carden Park where other Irish notables include Justin Kehoe of Birr and Mallow’s Mervyn Owens, winners of the South of Ireland Championship in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Finbarr Madden, an English-based golfer with close Cork connections, is our only representative at Chart Hills in Kent. Limerick’s Tim Rice is in the field in Cologne.
A number of those listed will be merely testing the waters and will not suffer any damage to their amateur status should they fail to progress. Most, though, see the pre-qualifiers as the first step to joining those who are reaping huge dividends from their exploits on the fairways of the world.
: St Annes Old Links: Eamonn Brady, Mark Campbell, Darren Crowe, Ricky Elliott, Noel Fox, Shane Franklin, John Kelly, Michael Lavelle, Conor Mallon, Peter Martin, Michael McGeady, Kevin McGrath, Sean McTernan, David Mortimer, Mark Murphy, Alan Murray, Mark O’Sullivan, Danny Sugrue, Barrie Trainor.
: Finbarr Madden.
: Jimmy Bolger, Greg Bowden, Raymond Burns, Michael Collins, Padraig Dooley, John Dwyer, Ted Higgins, David Jones, Justin Kehoe, Michael McDermott, Paul McDonald, Gavin McNeill, Damian Mooney, Chris Moriarty, Mervyn Owens, Alan Thomas, Leslie Walker, Peter Williamson.
: Justin Brink, Tim Rice.