Following a relentless summer schedule, the EuroPro Tour’s Order of Merit is beginning to take shape ahead of October’s Tour Championship with Ireland’s stop on the calendar set to prove pivotal to the aspiring pros taking their chance at Tulfarris.
Play got underway this morning at the PREM Group Irish Masters with those taking part eyeing one of five European Challenge Tour cards up for grabs through the final Order of Merit, with players competing for over £1.2 million of prize money across the 2019 season.
As ever, there’s plenty of Irish interest with Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell the pick of the bunch, currently sitting just outside the top-5 on the Order of Merit in 10th spot as he looks to escalate his progression to the Challenge Tour next season.
Not exactly an up-and-coming talent, the now 35-year old mixed it with the best of them on the European Tour in ’09 when winning his Tour card for the first time but after losing his Challenge Tour playing privileges last year, he’s eager to return to that second tier of European golf.
“I definitely want to be playing Challenge Tour,” said Caldwell. “The standard’s better, the potential earnings are better and they offer European Tour spots so it’s huge to get on that Tour and to stay on it.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t play great last year, I had four or five weeks where I made my money – missed out by 14 spots on an automatic full card and somehow ended up with zero starts this year because of the cut schedule on the Challenge Tour and European Tour.
“But I’ve been playing reasonably steady this year, driving the ball pretty good. Keeping it in play makes it that bit easier. The golf courses aren’t too demanding so if you do drive it in play you’re left with a lot of medium to short irons and you can make your scores from there.”
Of 11 events played this term, he’s collected five top-10 finishes including four top-5’s but with time running out to break inside the coveted top-5, a big performance in Wicklow could prove crucial to Caldwell’s chances of earning Challenge Tour graduation.
“I’ve never played the course believe it or not,” confessed Caldwell. “I stayed there once, I met Pat Barrett a couple of years ago at Ballykisteen and I stayed at Tulfarris for a couple of night’s break when he was there.
“I obviously had a look around the place then, the golf course looked beautiful, it’s a beautiful setting. It’s great to have the hotel on site and from what I hear from last year, the guys were raving about it. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Whitehead’s John Ross Galbraith, Limerick’s Tim Rice, The Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney and Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy are all on track to make the season ending Tour Championship in Spain but Tulfarris will be a crucial steppingstone if they’re to realise top-5 ambitions of their own.
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