Heartbreak for Devlin as Tour dream in tatters

The list of illustrious casualties was of no comfort to Ballymena’s Chris Devlin as he limped away from the European Tour Qualifying School facing an uncertain future after a devastating quadruple bogey eight wrecked his tour dream.

It mattered little to him that Waterville’s David Higgins shot a two over 74 on the Stadium Course to qualify with ease in 19th place on five under par and is now just two rounds away from securing one of 25 cards.

The Antrim man could not care less that tour winners such as Welshmen Rhys Davies and Bradley Dredge missed the four-round cut for the top 70 and ties by two strokes or that former Ryder Cup players Paul Broadhurst and Jarmo Sandelin finished miles off the pace, though ahead of Nick Dougherty.

He hadn’t even noticed that former stars such as Pablo Martin and Anton Haig withdrew before the fourth round so hopeless was their position.

Devlin was two under par for his round with six holes to play when he played safely to the centre of the water-protected fourth green, stooped to replace his divot and looked up to see his seven iron hit the front of the green and spin back into the water.

It held up in the weeds but his decision to play it where it lay proved disastrous. His first attempt at escape dislodged a submerged ball and his own plopped back in the water. He left the next attempt in the hazard, blasted his fifth shot over the green onto the down-slope of a bunker and took three more from there.

Shellshocked and now five over for the tournament, he bogeyed the next two holes and eventually parred home for a 76 that left him five strokes outside the two over cut and wondering where he will play next year.

“I am gutted,” Devlin said. “I have never had such a bad break in my life. My brain was fried after that. It is just right back to square one again. It hurts right now and it’s going to be tough to take for a while.”

Higgins was the only Irishman to make the final two rounds on the Stadium Course, carding a two over par 74 on a track sodden by overnight rain and slipping eight places to 19th on five under par.

He lies seven shots off the lead but the 39-year old from Waterville knows he is close to winning back his card.

“I’ve a chance now,” Higgins said after making four bogeys and two birdies. “If I shoot two good rounds, I will get a card. It would be fantastic but you can’t even go there.

“There are two tough rounds ahead and if I make it, fine, if I don’t, I don’t. Life goes on.”

Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney and Royal County Down’s Simon Thornton also missed the cut after poor finishes on the Tour Course.

Kearney was just a shot outside the cut mark with five to play but bogeyed the 14th and 15th to eventually miss by three after a 70 and turn his thoughts to the Asian Tour Qualifying School in January.

“Poor golf and poor putting,” said Kearney, who will have little to play on the Challenge Tour next year. “We’ll have a look at the options. Asia is one of them.”

Thornton needed two birdies in his last four but found water at the 15th and double bogeyed there to miss out by four shots after a poor week on the greens.

Unenthusiastic about playing on the Challenge Tour next year, Thornton said: “If am hitting it like this and not getting the ball in the hole, what’s the point of playing the Challenge Tour? I have options at home. I am in no rush to make a decision.”

Lurgan’s Gareth Shaw, 137th on 12 over after a closing 68, is certain to play on the second tier circuit after winning the Alps Tour this year.

But Douglas’s Peter O’Keeffe, who was 140th on 14 over after a 75, may have to combine the PGA Irish Region with a couple of Challenge Tour starts.

“The 81 on the first day left me with a lot to do,” O’Keeffe said.

“I was just a bit wild this week and you can’t be wild here. I need to strengthen my wedge game and tighten up my swing.

“But I have belief in myself so I will do the hard work over the winter and see what happens. The Irish Region has been great for me so we’ll see what we can play in next year.”

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