Tougher the better for Jamie McLeary in final European Tour test

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JAMIE McLeary is praying for the toughest test possible in the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School after earning his spot in the six-round marathon along with Callum Macaulay and Wallace Booth.

The trio all progressed from the second stage in southern Spain on Saturday – McLeary winning at El Saler while Macaulay and Booth finished third and fifth at El Valle and Las Colinas respectively.

It was the end of the road, at least for another season, for 12 other Scottish hopefuls, including Steven O’Hara, David Law, Michael Stewart and Lloyd Saltman, the latter withdrawing before his final round.

But, for McLeary, Macaulay and Booth, the dream of playing on the European Tour next season is still alive as they now head to the final test, at the PGA Catalunya Resort in Girona at the end of the month.

McLeary sealed his triumph by closing with rounds of 67 and 66, admitting it has been the “first time I’ve played well for all four rounds in a tournament” since winning the Scottish Hydro Challenge at Aviemore in 2009.

The 31-year-old Fifer has had a torrid time since missing a chunk of last season due to a hand injury, but admitted he fancied his chances at El Saler before teeing off.

“It is one of the hardest courses in Europe, with tight fairways lined with bushes and trees and massively sloping greens with run off areas,” he said.

“I knew that I’d have a great chance of qualifying. I tend to play really difficult courses well because I know that I don’t have to shoot 20-plus under to win.

“Having now played well for four rounds, I’m looking forward to taking that form to Girona and securing my card. I feel like it’s about time that I got on to the main Tour and I feel like my game probably suits it more than the Challenge Tour.”

For Booth, it was the first time he’d managed to progress past the second stage in four attempts.

“It’s nice to finally get a crack at final stage,” admitted the Comrie man. “It feels like a big weight off my shoulders.”

He described his play as “very steady” and is now hoping to give his confidence another boost in this week’s EuroPro Tour Championship at Woburn.

The final field for Girona won’t be finalised until after this week’s South African Open but, based on the Race to Dubai rankings at the moment, Alastair Forsyth and George Murray will also be in that line-up.

Craig Lee, lying 116th on the money-list, is facing a sweaty end to his season, while Peter Whiteford, who is 113th, could also be facing an unwanted trip to north-east Spain, though only if things go very badly for him this week.