Eight Irish players keep Tour card hopes alive

EIGHT Irish golfers came through the first qualifying stage of the European Tour Qualifying School over the St Annes Old Links in Lancashire yesterday.

Leading the way was Galwegian David Mortimer who finished on 15 under par 273 to tie for 3rd spot while Michael McGeady, the burly Donegalman who helped North West capture the Bulmers Irish Senior Cup in Rosslare last week, yesterday shot his second successive 67 to comfortably make the cut. The other Irishmen to keep alive their hopes of Tour cards in 2006 were Alan Murray, Darren Crowe, Noel Fox, John Kelly, Danny Surgure and Eamonn Brady.

Former carpenter Henrik Bjornstad from Norway spreadeagled the St Annes field with an incredible total of 23 under par 265. And as always on these occasions, his success was tinged with a delightful touch of romance.

The 26-year-old Norwegian played for three unbroken years on Tour before becoming disillusioned with the game at the end of 2004. But with the lure of the golfing bug strong again, the runner-up in the 2002 Hong Kong Open downed his hammer and nails, entered PQ 1 and produced a scintillating four day showing at the Lancashire course, a second round 64 and a final round 65 proving the highlights.

A total of 23 players qualified from St Annes for PQ 2 - to be held at Emporda Golf Club, PGA Golf de Catalunya and Golf Costa Ballena, all in Spain, on November 2-5 - on nine under par 279 or better while 29 players made it through at two under par 286 or better at Carden Park.

Victor at the Cheshire course was Welshman Gareth Wright who carded a 12 under par total of 276 but it was also a great day for Kilkenny professional Jimmy Bolger who finished a single shot off the pace after yesterday's admirable 69.

Ulsterman Chris Moriarty and Hermitage's Greg Bowden both equalled par to progress to the next stage. But there was disappointment for Dundalk professional Leslie Walker and Waterford's Gavin McNeill who finished a stroke outside the cut on 287.

* See: See Results section for scores.

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