Jonathan Caldwell, Niall Kearney and Gavin Moynihan survived the 72-hole Qualifying School cut as 77 players moved on to the final two days at Lumine in a bid to secure one of 25 full-time tickets to the European Tour.
It’s a huge boost, particularly to Caldwell and Kearney who, having made the four-round cut, are now guaranteed Challenge Tour status next season.
Clandeboye’s Caldwell was most impressive in his work; the 35-year old bounding into the final two days after firing a four-under par 67 to move into a tie for 30th at seven-under par.
Tackling the Lakes Course, which will be the venue for the final 36 holes of the six-round slog, a four-birdie blitz from the second, his 11th hole assured Caldwell had no reason to look behind him in his race to earn a European Tour card for next year.
“It’s been a long couple of weeks, I’m tired after that,” Caldwell said with eight rounds of Q-School behind him so far this month.
“The goal this week was to make the cut. Having finished seventh on the EuroPro I was guaranteed some Challenge Tour privileges but to get sole status was the main goal this week. Anything over the next two rounds is really a bonus. Obviously I’ve put myself in a great position to shoot two good scores over the next two rounds and finished the year off well but we’ll see what happens.”
Having played his best golf over the Lakes Course so far this week, he has 36 more opportunities around that track over the next two days with the gap currently just one stroke between him and those at eight-under par tied 21st on the board and projected to earn European Tour promotion.
“The Lakes is more open, I wouldn’t say I like it any more than the Hills Course,” Caldwell added. “The wind tends to blow a bit more around it but it’s more a case of I managed to hole a few more putts around it.
“I’m looking forward to the next two days, obviously. I’ll be in bed early tonight. I’ll have a nice warm bath now, soak the muscles, go out for dinner and be in bed early after that and be ready to go again tomorrow.”
Royal Dublin’s Kearney meanwhile did it the hard way on the Hills course, never comfortable as he teetered on the bubble between making it and missing it all afternoon.
A penultimate hole birdie allowed Kearney the cushion of letting one slip at the last and he can sleep tonight knowing that when he needed it most, he had the game to produce a three-under par round of 69 under the most intense scrutiny a golfer can experience.
The 31-year old has plied his trade mainly on the EuroPro Tour this term but the significance of this promotion to Challenge Tour company should take the pressure off as he looks to go one step further in cementing his place inside the top-25 and ties on the leaderboard by close of play on Wednesday.
As for Moynihan, who’s guaranteed plenty of starts next term having dropped off the Main Tour only this year, the stakes maybe weren’t so high but that didn’t make it any easier for the Dubliner to produce a three-under par 68 of his own when it was needed around the Lakes Course.
Moynihan fired five birdies in the effort and at four-under par, he’s alongside Kearney with both players trailing four shots behind the current target of minus-eight for one of 25 passes through the Pearly Gates of the European Tour.
Sadly, the likelihood of Ireland’s travelling quintet all making the grade was going to be difficult and so it proved with Tramore’s Robin Dawson agonisingly missing out by a single stroke on the final two days.
The 24-year old rallied hard, bookending his four days with rounds of 70 but ultimately, he left his push too late, his three-under total resigning him to thoughts of what might’ve been ahead of the off-season.
It never got that close for Ballymoney’s Michael Hoey who signed off with a one-under par round of 71 for a seven-over par total.
With the cut made, the 70 players plus ties will play two more rounds on the Lakes Course. It’s one final push for some players who started their Q School journey back in September at First Stage with the top-25 plus ties at close of play on Wednesday set to earn their European Tour cards for next season.
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