James Byrne ready to shine at home in qualifier
TWELVE months after suffering the agony of missing out by a shot, James Byrne is feeling quietly confident he can clear the opening hurdle in this season’s European Tour Qualifying School.
The first stage gets under way today at both Ebreichsdorf in Austria and The Roxburghe, near Kelso, where Byrne is among 21 home hopefuls setting out in the quest for coveted cards.
Between now and the end of the month, six other stage-one events will be held around Europe, with two separate tournaments at Frilford Heath in Oxfordshire also featuring a handful of Scots.
Their first goal is to make it through to four second-stage events being held in Spain in early November, with the six-round final again being held at the PGA Catalunya Resort in Girona virtually straight afterwards.
Byrne turned professional after helping Great Britain & Ireland’s win the 2011 Walker Cup in Aberdeen, but is still waiting to get his foot on the ladder in Europe.
He’s spent the last three years playing either the Asian Tour or Asian Development Tour, where he recently chalked up a timely triumph to bolster his spirits for this week’s challenge on home soil.
“I was delighted to get another win after what’s been a difficult period in my career,” said the two-times Northern Open champion from Banchory. “This was probably the most important win of my career and also the most satisfying in terms of the nature of the win, shooting 64 in the final round.
“I was nervous going into the final stretch of holes but managed to close the deal and emotions were running high on the final green. I’m in good position now to make a late charge and finish in the top five in the OOM (Order of Merit), so hopefully I can continue the good form over the closing few events.
“I’ve had a week at home to prepare for the European Tour Q-School. I played the same course at this stage last year and missed by a shot, so feel confident that I can do better this time around.”
Four years after they won cards together, Elliot and Lloyd Saltman are also in the field in the Borders, where other hopefuls include Paul McKechnie, who qualified for the Open Championship this year.
Paul Lawrie’s son Craig is having a crack, too, as is Zander Culverwell, last year’s Scottish Amateur champion. Chris Robb, winner of that title this season, is in one of the fields at Frilford Heath. Joint-second at The Roxburghe a year ago, Englishman Jamie Moul is back again, while the line-up also includes Garrick Porteous, Alan Dunbar and Thriston Lawrence.