Five Irish are among the 156-man field who will tee off at PGA Catalunya this morning, hoping to secure a European Tour card for the next 12 months.
Peter Lawrie, Michael McGeady, Simon Thornton, Gareth Maybin and Kevin Phelan may all be at different stages of their careers, but each knows what’s at stake the next six days. It’s an event Tournament Director Mike Stewart declared “one of golf’s toughest challenges” and little wonder, because over six rounds at the end of a very long season for most, the immediate careers of so many are on the line.
“It’s shit or bust here really this week isn’t it?”, deadpans Stewart.
“That sums it up perfectly because this determines their whole season next year. If they’ve a bad week here and they don’t get their card then they’re going to be going in one direction. If they do play well and are successful and get on Tour then they’re back at the top end of the game, so it’s important. This is it. There are no second chances after this”
The players will battle it out over two courses, the Stadium course – which was recently voted the best in Europe for the fourth year running, and the Tour course, a slightly easier, shorter track.
Each man will play two rounds over both courses and after 72 holes, the field will be cut to the leading 70 and ties, who will then play two further rounds next Wednesday and Thursday.
The Irish quintet have mixed experiences here. Last year, Phelan tied for 17th to ensure he’d play on the European Tour for this year, while Gareth Maybin missed out by one shot in recent years. Michael McGeady is in dreamland after coming through the gruelling opening rounds while Peter Lawrie hasn’t been here for 14 years after spending over a decade on the European Tour.
Simon Thornton is one of 29 players here to have won on the European Tour and he’ll be looking for a speedy return after a less than fruitful 2014.
Q School’s Irish classmates
Kevin Phelan (Mount Juliet)
The 24-year-old Waterford man successfully negotiated the Qualifying School 12 months ago and spent this year on the European Tour. But things didn’t work out so well for him, meaning he’s back again. To his credit, he came through the three Qualifying stages last year to secure his card for 2014 but ‘only’ has to come through the final stage this year, courtesy of a strong finish to the season. He took a career-best third at the Hong Kong Open recently, netting €64,546, to suggest he’s in a good position to regain his place.
Michael McGeady (Northwest GC)
Last year’s Irish PGA Championship winner is the least well-known of the five Irish. The 36-year-old Donegal man, who turned professional nine years ago, has come through two rounds of qualifying to get here.
Ranked 1,547 in the world so this is a major chance for him to make a serious mark.
Gareth Maybin (Ballyclare GC)
The 34-year-old Antrim man needed to finish inside the top 110 in the Race to Dubai standings to avoid Q-School but was 124th. He had a chance to secure his card if he finished in the top seven in the ISPS Handa Perth International but, like Lawrie, missed the cut. He’ll need to turn his game around, and fast, if he is to get through.
Simon Thornton (Royal County Down GC)
The Newcastle man has a European Tour win from 2013 to his name and he was granted an exemption through the first two qualifying rounds on the back of that success. He has played on the European Tour all year, his biggest payday coming at the Volvo Golf Champions tournament in South Africa where he netted a cheque for €34,448. Still, he was 146th in the Race to Dubai, 36 places outside the cut.
Peter Lawrie (GREENi Golf)
Had a disastrous year, his best result being a tie for 40th at the Omega European Masters in September. The 40-year-old Greeni Golf professional, however, has a huge amount of experience to draw on, and he has tasted success on both the European Tour and the Challenge Tour.
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