Golfer Saltman survives Spain scare

LOTHIANS golfer Lloyd Saltman will head for this week's European Tour qualifying school final in buoyant mood after surviving a nerve-wracking conclusion to his stage two campaign in Spain at the weekend.

The Craigielaw rookie emerged triumphant from a seven-man play-off at Sherry Golf in Jerez to clinch the last qualifying spot on offer and keep alive his hopes of securing a full card for the main circuit in 2009.

Saltman, 23, had found himself on the back foot after starting the 72-hole event with a three-over 75 last Wednesday but he clawed his way up the order with a 72 and a 70 before a battling four-under 68 in the final round on Saturday pushed him into a tie for 19th place with a three-under aggregate of 285.

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That put the Lothians youngster into a shoot-out with six other players for the remaining qualifying spot, but the sudden-death decider had to be postponed until yesterday morning after darkness prevented any further play on Saturday night.

Saltman showed his quality in the delayed play-off, knocking a nine-iron from 140 yards to within ten feet and holing the putt for a vital birdie-three.

"Because there were seven of us we went out in a three and a four," said Saltman. "I was in the first three and after getting my birdie I had to wait and watch the group of four play the hole.

"It was more nerve-wracking than the actual play-off itself but when none of them made birdie then that was it."

Saltman, who earned an Asian Tour card at the turn of the year, has been relying mainly on invites during his rookie season after failing to reach last year's tour school final.

Despite a second-place finish on the Challenge Tour in Madrid and a tie for sixth in the main circuit's Russian Open, the former Scottish Boys' strokeplay champion has made just five cuts from 19 events in Europe.

With a place in the q-school final now his, Saltman has a chance to earn a tour category and set down a solid schedule for next year.

If he makes the 72-hole cut in the six-round final he will be guaranteed at least a full Challenge Tour card but, with the top 30 players earning promotion to the main tour after the gruelling 108-hole examination, the former Walker Cup player will be setting his sights high and aiming to join the big league.

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As Saltman kept his tour ambitions alive, there was disappointment for his older brother Elliot as well as Lothians hopefuls David Patrick, Raymond Russell, Mark Hillson and Mark Kerr.

Capital ace Patrick, ninth at the start of the closing day after a steady campaign at Costa Ballena, missed out on a final spot in a play-off after a one-over 73, his worst score of the week, left him with a 280. Prestonpans man Russell, a winner on the European Tour in 1996, finished down on the 289 mark after a 73 while Saltman senior fired a five-under 67 at Arcos Gardens, but it was in vain as he came in with a 289.

Former Lothians champion Hillson signed off from his week at Montenmedio with a battling 69 but the Craigielaw amateur finished well out of the running on 292. Kerr closed with a 77 at Montenmedio for a 294.

Saltman's success yesterday took the number of Scottish qualifiers from stage two to six after Chris Doak, Craig Lee, Graham Gordon and amateur duo Scott Henry and Callum Macaulay all came through on Saturday.

They will now travel to PGA Golf de Catalunya near Girona in north east Spain for the q-school final which gets underway on Thursday.