Tough road for Euro Q-School grads

Markus Brier at the 2009 Volvo China Open

Markus Brier at the 2009 Volvo China Open

It didn’t take long for the euphoria of gaining a tour card to fade for the graduates of last year’s European Tour Qualifying School.

They might be European Tour members, but not the European Tour as we know it. They are members of a different caste system to the regular rank and file, a substandard class that picks up the scraps left behind by the upper class.

We are 13 events into this year’s European schedule, but the season hasn’t really started for some Q-School grads. A quick look at the 34 players who qualified at last year’s school shows that most of them hardly have played so far.

Veteran Markus Brier has managed six events on this year’s circuit. However, he’s benefited from a few sponsor invites into strong field events in Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai. The Austrian was the only Q-School grad to get into Bahrain, and one of only six to play Qatar. He took advantage of his Qatar trip, finishing third to earn €102,393.

No one can blame Brier for playing in these tournaments. After all, how many of the other 33 would have turned down the offer to play in three Middle East events? None.

Victor Dubuisson managed to get into Qatar and earned nearly €37,000. He also got into Dubai. Dubuisson is an IMG client, and that helped him gain entry to these events.

In other words, the 34 aren’t always playing on a level playing field. Some are given advantages others can only dream of.

Many of the Q-School grads will struggle to play in enough events to make enough money to keep their cards. As anyone knows, Q-School golf is the ultimate form of pressure. Imagine what it feels like to get your card and then find out you can’t get into tournaments.

The tournaments they do play in are those with the smallest purses. So they are under constant pressure to finish high to earn enough money to keep their cards.

That isn’t easy.

Of the 31 Q-School grads from the 2009 school, only five managed to keep their cards last year. Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli, who took the last card, only played in 12 tournaments. Finland’s Roope Kakko, who took the 34th card at last year’s Euro Q-School, has only managed to play in three events so far this year.

This week’s Andalucia Open is one of the lesser events on this year’s Euro schedule, with a prize fund of €1 million, yet Q-School grads have struggled to get starts. Seven are sitting on the sidelines cursing the luck of those who managed to get in the field.

The trials and tribulations that go with Q-School are well documented. Grads could be forgiven the hard part was over, but the grind just continues once they get on tour.

The European Tour will say the answer is simple: play better. That’s hard to do when starts are hard to come by.

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