Ballymena amateur Dermot McElroy missed the cut, but Kevin Phelan, David Higgins and Ruaidhri McGee still have a chance to win their European Tour cards at the Final Stage of the Qualifying School in Spain.
After four gruelling rounds over the Stadium and Tour Courses at PGA Catalunya Resort near Girona, Waterford Castle star Phelan is the best of the Irish, just two shots outside the top 25 and ties who will earn their playing rights following tomorrow’s sixth round.
With the cut for the top-70 and ties falling at two under par 282, exactly 71 players survived to play the last two rounds on the tough Stadium Course. But Phelan knows that he is going to have to start holing putts to keep his dream alive.
“I’ve played quite well for the first four days but didn’t get as much out of my rounds as I could have,” said Phelan after a bogey at his final hole gave him a one under 71 that left him tied for 41st on five under par.
“I’ll just keep plugging away and hopefully hole a few putts. I played really well today, especially on the front nine where I had eight birdie chances but only managed to take two.
“But it’s definitely encouraging to have those chances and hopefully I can take a few more. I feel like I am putting quite well but I haven’t read the greens as well as I usually do.
“I don’t want to play a numbers game and guess what I might need to shoot from here. I’ll just keep plugging away as I have done all year, take it one day at a time and see where I end up.”
Waterville veteran Higgins shot a two under 70 to make the cut on the mark but from tied 62nd he may need to play the last two rounds in 10 under to have any chance of winning back his card.
At least, that’s the prediction of 22-year old Ulsterman McGee whose 74 saw him tumble 30 places down the leaderboard alongside 40-year old Higgins.
“I hit a bad second at the 12th and ended up unplayable and made a double bogey but I holed a couple of crucial five footers coming home so that was good,” McGee said.
“It wasn’t the best today now but it’s comforting to know I’m through the cut and have Challenge Tour status for next year.
“Who knows, a couple of five under rounds from here and I could still win a European Tour card.”
As for McElroy, the 20-year old closed with a two under 68 on the easier Tour Course but was left to rue two triple bogeys sevens on the 14th hole on the Stadium Course in earlier rounds.
After missing the cut by four shots, he must now decide whether to remain amateur or turn professional with limited access to the Challenge Tour.
“It’s a tough decision,” McElroy said. “I’ve been told I’m guaranteed around six invites on the Challenge Tour next year but I am only 20 so there is no rush. I enjoyed the experience but I just have to improve my putting, that’s the key, and tidy up my short game.”
Spain’s Carol del Moral shot a stunning, nine under 63 on the Stadium Course to lead by a shot from Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti and England’s Daniel Brooks.
But a whole host of bigger names missed the cut including 2011 Q-School winner David Dixon and former European Tour winners Jose Manuel Lara, Rhys Davies, Peter Hedblom, Phillip Price, Johan Edfors, Markus Brier, Nick Dougherty and Kenneth Ferrie.
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