Some people may claim that securing a European Tour card through the Qualifying School has become a waste of time due to the limited starts it brings, but Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick would probably disagree. The English duo, after all, used the six-round test at PGA Catalunya, near Girona, to earn their place on the circuit and just look at them now.
Sullivan, who finished third behind compatriot John Parry three years ago, has won three times on the European Tour this season to emerge as a contender to make Darren Clarke’s team for next year’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. The same goes for Fitzpatrick, who gained his card through finishing in a tie for tenth just 12 months ago yet recently became the youngest-ever British Masters champion at 21.
Time will tell if another British star in the making is in the line-up for this year’s final, which starts tomorrow, but hopes that an eight-strong Scottish contingent can get into card contention are certainly high. For starters, that group is made up of some hungry individuals. We’ve got Scott Henry, George Murray and Peter Whiteford coming in virtually straight from the Challenge Tour Grand Final in Oman, where Henry fell just short of being among the 15 graduates to the main circuit.
On his first trip back to the Q-School for six years, Whiteford finished 50th 12 months ago and then found a return to the Challenge Tour a bit of a struggle.
The Fifer, however, is determined to regain his place at the top table and believes changes he’s been working on with his brother, Stewart, aren’t far away from fully clicking.
“I’m not ready to throw in the towel,” declared 35-year-old Whiteford, who lost in a play-off for the 2013 Ballantine’s Championship in Korea. “It’s been a long time since I played well, but I still believe I am good enough to get back on the European Tour.”
Of the same opinion, Murray is hoping a casual approach to the 108-hole test can be the key to regaining the card he lost at the end of the 2013 season.
“The more excited people seem to be about going to the Qualifying School final, the worse they do,” observed the former Scottish Amateur champion. “There’s no point getting uptight and losing energy.”
Bradley Neil and Paul Shields have put plenty of energy into their card-winning bids already, the pair having come through the first and second stages to give themselves this chance.
“I’ve put in a lot of work for these two weeks, so I’m glad that it’s paid off for the first week and hopefully the form/game improves for the final stage,” said Neil, the 2014 Amateur champion from Blairgowrie. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about PGA Catalunya and I’m feeling fairly confident.”
Kirkhill’s Shields, who closed with a 64 to finish joint-third in his second-stage event at Lumine Golf earlier this week, is relishing an opportunity to “change the future for myself”.
Completing the Caledonian hopefuls at the venue where Spain wants to host the 2022 Ryder Cup are Jack Doherty, David Law and Ross Kellett, three others to qualify from stage two. Having passed this test two years ago, Doherty said: “It’s a venue I really like and, if I can keep playing the way I’ve been playing, then I shouldn’t be too far away from regaining that Tour card.”
Five years after winning both the Scottish Open and Johnnie Walker Championship, Edoardo Molinari is among the card contenders after the Italian slipped to 158th in this season’s Race to Dubai.