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Q School - The Ultimate Test
At times it can seem like you’re playing a game of Russian Roulette. Years of hard-luck stories have given Q School a certain reputation: Golfers turn grey in its suffocating atmosphere, their nerves shredded by the six gruelling rounds of Final Stage. That’s if you make it that far.
10 November 2017
PHOTO: Gavin Moynihan (courtesy of Golffile)
Qualifying School is a cut-throat environment though there are consolation prizes for those who fail to win their cards. Survive the 72-hole cut and you’re guaranteed playing rights on European Challenge Tour. Professional golf has many sheer slopes. At least at Q School there is a chance to gain a footing.
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This week the hopefuls come from far and wide – Argentina, Australia, Chile, India, New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa, Thailand, USA and Zimbabwe. At last count, there were 153 names in the hat. The big prize is a place on the European Tour but the competition went global a long time ago.
Into that mix come Dermot McElroy, Ruaidhri McGee, Gavin Moynihan and Cormac Sharvin. This week, they must go it alone but they have all benefitted from Team Ireland Golf & Sport Ireland support to get this far.
Moynihan, who has enjoyed a stellar season, is a case in point. Having begun the year without a playing category, he came within €12,000 of winning his card through the Road to Oman rankings. His journey illustrates just how important it is to get the chance to compete.
Apart from providing direct financial support, Team Ireland Golf secures playing invitations throughout the season, working to secure as many opportunities as possible. In 2017, 16 different players benefitted from 45 invitations.
Moynihan utilised one of his five invitations to enter the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9 in May. He would finish that week as runner-up, losing out to Aaron Rai in the final. After a slow start to his professional career the previous year, Moynihan went from strength to strength in 2017 on the back of that breakthrough performance in Spain. A final round 64 at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open earned him the biggest cheque of his career, proof if ever it were needed of how important confidence can be.
Buoyed by a string of impressive results, the two-time Walker Cup star has another chance to win his card at Lumine this week but even if Q School does not go to plan, Moynihan’s status will earn him a place in at least 10 events on the main tour next season. As a result of his progress in 2017, he has already bypassed the first two stages of Q School. In many ways, he now has a free shot.
Cormac Sharvin may also feel like he’s in bonus territory. Until his fourth place finish at Ras Al Khaimah in late October, it had been an unremarkable year for Sharvin. That result secured his Challenge Tour card for 2017 and he carried his form into the second stage of Q School, where he fired a career best 64 in the final round. Another good week at Final Stage could see him progress to the main tour.
His former Ireland teammate Dermot McElroy is hoping to do likewise. Four years ago he also made it to Final Stage and finished two shots outside the cut. With a full year now under his belt as a pro, experience could propel him further in 2017.
If experience does count then Ruaidhri McGee, at 26, could be poised to make the breakthrough. This is his eighth time to roll the dice at Q School. Last year he failed to make the cut at Final Stage but he cruised through stage two at Panoramica this year. He has surely served his apprenticeship at this stage.
Now it’s time to pass that final test.
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