Euro Tour hopefuls ready for Q-School

Peter Uihlein

This week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai might feature the creme de la creme of European golf, but it’s pressure free compared to what 156 players will feel in the European Tour Qualifying School in Girona, Spain.

While Rory McIlroy and the rest of Europe’s elite are playing for mostly bonus money in the European Tour’s $8 million season-ending finale, the players in Girona are playing for their careers. They face six rounds of sheer agony for the chance to earn one of 25 cards for the 2013 European Tour.

With $22,500 for last place in Dubai, it’s easy to see why so many are willing to shell out the $2,200 entry fee to face the most pressure any professional will ever experience. Some will have already played eight rounds at first and second stages to get to Girona. That’s a potential 14 rounds to earn a tour card.

Along with the usual band of dreamers, there are some notable names trying to earn tickets to the European Tour gravy train. Write these names in the “I can’t believe they are going through Q-School” category. Veteran Tour winners Gary Orr, Alastair Forsyth, Stephen Dodd, Kennie Ferrie, Raymond Russell, Scott Drummond and Bradley Dredge. Former Ryder Cuppers Paul Broadhurst and Jarmo Sandelin. So called “can’t miss kids” Nick Dougherty, Anton Haig, Rhys Davies and Pablo Martin.

Davies played on two Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cups and starred at East Tennessee State. It’s only two years since he won the Hassan II Trophy, which many saw as the start of a run of tour wins. Martin, meanwhile, is a three-time Euro Tour winner who was college golf’s number one player while at Oklahoma State. Many commentators felt these two would be competing for top honors in Dubai this week rather than fighting to save their careers.

Throw in recent Walker Cuppers in John Parry, Sam Hutsby, Luke Goddard, Niall Kearney, 2010 U.S. Amateur winner Peter Uihlein and promising South African player Dylan Fritelli and you have an intriguing mix of stories.

The top 70 players and ties make it through to the final two rounds. Only the top 25 get cards, with those that don’t eventually earn Euro Tour tickets getting a free pass to the European Challenge Tour.

Of course, there’s a catch. Although the fortunate 25 will leave Spain feeling euphoric, their tour card won’t necessarily guarantee them a full season on the next year’s European Tour. There was a time when a card at Q School meant a full schedule. Not now. Some card winners might only play a handful of tournaments next year.

Q School grads go through a re-rank after so many tournaments into the 2013 season, so those who get cards need to play well every tournament or get left behind. Plus, they have little chance of playing in the many co-sanctioned events that make up the current Euro Tour schedule.

But that’s for next year. For six days from Nov. 24-29, the veterans, the dreamers and the “can’t miss kids” need to get their heads down and make every shot count. If they can do that then they might get a European Tour card, and the chance to play for more money next year than most people earn in a lifetime.

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